thoughts

~ A Secret Space ~

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“The words of mockery came at me and I realised at that point I had broken through a new realm. People’s thoughts and opinions of me no longer had any power over my emotions. I was my own man, and it struck me how blessed I was to be able to live life without striving for social validation. So many people secretly craved to live life not controlled by worries of what others thought of them. It was no easy thing to do after all. We are all social beings that thrive on others’ acceptance, and it truly takes a bit of insanity to overcome this aspect of human nature. And the bigger the crowd you have to fit into, the more of your own individuality you will have to sacrifice. This is why the true individual thrives on his or her solitude. It’s in that uncorrupted space where the noise of society fades away. It’s in that space where the inner voice is heard, art is created, and new perspectives realised. This space becomes more addictive the longer you spend in it, and when you return to the crowd and see the masks being worn and the social game being played, you will inevitably only crave to avoid it as much as you can. Solitude becomes a way of protecting your unique essence. And maybe people will think you’ve gone crazy, but most will never understand why being alone is one of life’s greatest pleasures.”

~ The Crazy Ones ~

“Always the crazy ones were discussed with hidden interest. Some were mocked outright, and others were affectionately referred to with lines like “she’s a bit different” or “he’s a bit out there”. Whatever the case, it seemed most people had a subconscious fascination for the alternative mind. People would stand back and observe them as if they were a rare species – some kind of exotic bird with pink feathers. Mostly they fascinated me because they were the creatures who had jumped the fences of normality; they were the ones who hadn’t subscribed to the current version of sanity which helped us all enjoy small-talk down the pub. To me that was a liberating quality I couldn’t help but envy. Without being shepherded on the farm of conventional thought, you were free to invent yourself and be whatever you wanted to be. And what was more desirable than that? In a world that said the winners were the rich people, or the famous people, or the good-looking people, to me it was the crazy ones – the people living life on their own terms – who were life’s greatest success stories.”

thoughts

~ Make Room for the Dreamers ~

~ Make Room for the Dreamers ~

“There seems to be a constant unspoken truth that pervades our culture, so please allow me to go ahead and just say it. Some of us were just not born for the norm. We have spirits that don’t fit into suits; we have passions that do not translate to job roles; we have desires that cannot be fulfilled by any product. We normally share the same story: we grew up feeling out of place with everything and everyone. We were in conflict with society due to its nature to try and shape us into something we were not. And we often have to bite our tongue as we sit quietly in groups. Well for once listen up and take a moment to hear our voice: we see the world a little differently to you, we have different priorities, and many of us would choose death before drifting through a life that did not truly fulfil our souls. It is because of this nature why we do the things we do. Whether it’s running fifty miles in one day, or travelling the world in a van, or writing poetry books – we do these things because we must do them. And I don’t know if I speak for all the other misfits, but I for one will not keep apologising for being the person I am. Yes, to many I know I may be a little strange and crazy – but god, if I hadn’t turned into what I am now, I would have long ago kicked the bucket. The life I am living is the one I must, and it is the same for every eccentric dreamer you know in your life. So please, get used to us and make room for the dreamers, make room for the artists, make room for the crazy ones. 

We are here to stay.”

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short stories

~ The Hills Above The Cities ~

~ The Hills Above The Cities ~

A brain overcharged by absurdity; a soul starving for something real. Another day of menial work and superficial interaction had left me craving a space of solitude. Like I had so many times before, I took myself up to that hill that overlooked my hometown. Standing above that urban expanse with its rows and rows of streets sprawled out before me, I cast my gaze outward and watched the city lights shimmering in the night. There they were: the flames of humanity flickering in the abyss of the universe; the human race floating through space, going about its transient existence. I stood there for a while and absorbed the sight. From the outside looking in, I thought of all those people living in those houses, walking those sidewalks, staring into those televisions and bathroom windows. I thought of the families at dinner tables, the lovers entwined on sofas, the friends laughing together in the bars and clubs and restaurants.

In that moment a great feeling of isolation crashed over me. In vivid detail, I began to realise just how much I was cut adrift, floating uncontrollably further and further away from those shores of human belonging. And no matter how I looked at it, there seemed to be no way to pull or anchor myself back in. It had always been this way from a young age it seemed. The times I tried to fit myself into the herd had torn and twisted me up beyond repair. I simply didn’t understand my fellow species, or any of their customs. I didn’t understand the conventions. I didn’t understand the expectations and traditions. I didn’t understand why everyone wanted to be the same rather than live a life true to themselves. It was all a great mystery to me: the jobs, the media, the school-system, the paperwork, the small-talk, the religions – the monotonous routine. It seemed that I was allergic to it all. In my most desperate times, I did try to fake it, but like an undercover alien with a bad cover story, it was never long before people cast their looks of bewilderment upon me, before they realised that I was not one of them – that I was an intruder.

It’s not that the situation of isolation was completely soul-destroying, of course. There was a great joy to be found in sailing your own ship, in walking your own path and getting lost among your own mountains of madness. Often I felt great pleasure in not being labelled and closed in to some sort of box of limitation. There was a sort of freedom that many people never got to taste, let alone fully explore. But still despite that, I was burdened with the situation of being a human-being, and like all human-beings I needed to stare into the eyes of someone who understood – of someone who recognised me for who I really was. I guess for a while on my travels I looked out for those people, expecting to find them on sunset beaches and sitting wistful-eyed in smoky bars in foreign lands. Sometimes I was even lucky to find one or two, but the interactions were usually short-lived, lasting only a few hours or days at the most. Like captains of two ships briefly passing by in a wide ocean, we stared into each other’s eyes and exchanged knowing glances before disappearing silently into the mist.

Yes, the more I stood there on that hill and thought about it, the more it seemed this was the destiny of someone like myself. The cards had been dealt and I knew deep down in my flesh and bones that it was my fate to sail alone, to get lost in the mazes of my own mind, to dwell in solitude among those mountains of madness. This was how it was; for some reason I would never fully understand, this is how it was. I guess by now it was just a matter of acceptance: a matter of accepting that I was a lone wanderer – a matter of accepting that I didn’t belong. I guess by now it was a matter of accepting the fact that no matter where I went in this world, I would always return to those hills above the cities, standing alone, staring up into the skies, looking for something – anything – to come and take me home.

thoughts

~ Breaking the Barriers ~

“All I wanted to do was to live, but there were barriers and boundaries which prevented it from happening. It was the machine of the routine life. I could see it in the stuttering traffic jams, in the ticking clocks, in the computer loading screens. I could see it in the forced smiles and the predictable small talk. The repetitive nature of everything going round and round until you became some sort of machine yourself. Your days and weeks became as predictable as clockwork. It was like we were all creating and working toward something, but the act of finally enjoying what it was we had created never came. It was that perpetual loading screen. The stuttering traffic jam. The clock that never struck the time we waited for. The feeling of completeness which never arrived. It was a constant push and slog through life, and often my eyes would look to nature to remind myself of the true rhythm of the universe. Those birds swooping and soaring; those leaves fluttering in the wind; those clouds dancing in the sky. It seemed we had deviated so far from the natural order of things. We were out of sync with the physical universe, which was no doubt the reason why we were so destructive toward it. The reality of it was suffocating and at times I stared up at the sun and felt a great fire roar in my heart. All I wanted to do was to shake off the shackles of society, to smash the clock and emerge back into the untamed way of life. A way of life of nature and beauty. A way of life of peace and harmony. A way of life that allowed us all to flow free like the breeze, rather than trudge in the swamp of the system we had created.”

short stories

~ The Great Escape ~

alcohol

~ The Great Escape ~

I put the bottle to my lips and poured the beer down my throat. It was a transaction I had gotten to know increasingly well throughout my adult life. I remember a time when I was a teenager, telling my parents that I was never going to drink – that I was strong enough not to need a form of escapism from the everyday reality of life. That conviction lasted till I was about seventeen when I started drinking regularly. I remember the joy of my first nights out: escaping the tyranny of the sober mind; the blurry world around me, drifting through nightclub dancefloors, kissing strangers, waking up the next day with memory loss and reading the text messages in my inbox with a sense of horror. The only cure for it was to go and hit the bottle once again, re-entering that warped reality where a person felt invincible, riding that intoxicated delusion and forgetting that tomorrow existed all over again.

Like any young person, I grew curious of the hedonistic lifestyle and eventually tried drugs too. From marijuana to cocaine to ecstasy, I explored the other states of consciousness available to me through the power of recreational substances. But I always returned to alcohol knowing it was a sustainable lover – one that was sure to take me to that place I knew well, like a cosy second home that existed in the corners of my mind. One that guaranteed me good times at the bottom of a bottle. One that wouldn’t kill me, but occasionally put me in that hungover hell where the thought of going out and facing the world made me pull the covers back over my head. 

Now don’t get me wrong. There is a great joy to be found in clean living. I often have some time off and enjoy a period of sobriety. Living healthily, exercising, meditating, taking care of your mind, body and soul is a beautiful and noble way of life. The colours of the world around you are more vivid and you can feel the whole cosmos pulsating through your veins. But after doing that for a while, I always find myself itching once again to hurl myself back into an altered state of consciousness. And I ask myself: why is it like this? Why is life a thing where not just me, but the majority of us are constantly looking for a way to distort our reality? Perhaps our brains were never to be this developed, and alcohol is the way to numb them so that our anxiety and stresses fade away. I know that was certainly an attraction to me; letting myself be coated by an emotional fleece that kept the hounds of overthinking at bay.

Those hounds seemed to have a taste for my mind and this perhaps explained why I drank more than the average person. As the years went on, I looked at my behaviour and started to realise I was more dependent on drinking than most of my peers – never knowing when to stop or slow down, always ordering a double rather than a single, sneaking out a hip-flask from time to time. I looked at my heroes and realised they were all alcoholics who either drank themselves to death, or went very close to it. I also knew there was a past of alcoholism in my family, including my uncle who had recently died from the condition. Indeed, there was a great risk of me becoming enslaved to the bottle, and every time I touched that poison, I knew I was playing with fire. Yet, there were times when I lingered on the verge of alcoholism – times when my eyes were bloodshot and my hands were shaking; times when my nervous system was in bits as the paranoia and anxiety crippled me and left me bedbound. Still I kept on drinking. Even when I was blowing all my money and screwing up my life; even when I looked in the mirror and hated who I was the next day; even when I woke up in a bed with a stranger whose name I couldn’t remember – I kept on drinking.

I drank in the pubs of England. I drank on the beaches of Brazil. I drank in the mountains of Nepal. I drank just about wherever the hell I was, and it took me to some strange situations that made me question whether it was all really worth it. One time in Australia I ended up in a jail cell for drunkenly stumbling into the apartment that was adjacent to the hostel I was staying at. The people living there found me on the sofa and promptly called the police who came and arrested me on break-in charges. Such a situation left me hitch-hiking to a court-hearing about twenty miles outside of town only to be laughed out the courtroom with a warning. Another time I found myself waking up on a ping pong table in a Ghanaian primary school while covered in mosquito and sandfly bites. Then there were the periods where I just drank heavily for weeks on end – living in a house of twenty people in a party town in New Zealand; staying with a local family in Rio de Janeiro while me and their daughter drink-drove to street parties most nights. Dodges with death and disaster were naturally common, including when the girl fell asleep at the wheel and we skidded into a ditch, or when I fell off the second story balcony of an apartment block.

Despite all the troubles I caused myself, I could feel the addiction to alcohol growing all the time. The idea of me being a teenager and telling my parents that I wasn’t going to drink seemed almost laughable by the time I was twenty-five. Clearly I was naive to just how much the world could wear down a person and, specifically, how much it would wear me down. To me pouring alcohol down your throat was a ticket out of dodge. It was the great escape. The great escape away from my sensitive and meek personality. The great escape from the tyranny of my overactive mind. When I drank, my worries disappeared and I no longer felt like a person constrained by my shyness and emotions. I was able to create an alter ego and go talk to beautiful girls. I was able to forget about my problems and indulge in a world of revelry and delight. I felt that this was what everyone was looking for: a holiday away from themselves – a ‘getaway’ to another person or dimension. And even if you were left feeling death the next day, it was still worth it just for that feeling of escaping into a hazy and warm state where all your troubles temporarily faded away.

It took a lot for me to want to never drink again, but as the years and the drinking sessions and the horrific hangovers went on, there were times where I really wanted to put down the bottle for good. I knew I wasn’t alone with this feeling. My friend James also spoke about giving up the poison. I remembered his eyes from when I first met him – he had that madman glare in his eyes; a window into the mind of a man who had just about poured every substance into it. He was one who knew pushing it too far – often destroying himself and missing work in sessions of debauchery and self-destruction. Such excess led him to periods where he vowed to abandon the bottle and start a life of cycling and yoga and living in peace. Then there was my friend Daniela who regularly went on benders that sent her into pits of existential dread and depression the next day. She would message me the next day in some sort of crisis of self-hatred and anxiety. She also vowed every now and again to give it up, before going on another bender just a week or two later. All of these dramas along with my own did make me question whether it was all worth it, and I started to imagine a trouble-free life with all the extra money and health benefits. I imagined walking through the woods with all my senses heightened from the years of clean living. I imagined myself being strong enough to not need a way to constantly distort my reality. 

It’s a tempting idea, but I fear that such a fate is unreachable, and I am just another human too conscious of his own reality and stuck with this brain inside of me – pouring alcohol onto it just to get it to calm down and enjoy itself every now again. This is the way of so many of us. We are all just addicts, users, escapists, fiends. None of us want to wake up with sober eyes and face the harsh daylight of this reality we call life. A man or woman has to find whatever escape they could. Some choose religion. Some choose to read fantasy novels. Some choose to chase love and money and the other grand illusions that have entertained for people for millennia. And most, at least in my society, choose drugs or alcohol. Maybe one day I will actually find the strength to stand sober and abandon the booze for good. No longer will I need to escape to another person or dimension. But until then, it’s back to the bottle and the revelry and the drunken delusions. It’s back to drowning my emotions in an ocean of booze. Like a true escapist, doing anything I can not to stand sober and face the daylight of this painful reality. 

short stories

~ A Message to my Old Flatmate ~

~ A Message to my Old Flatmate ~

I remember once living with a man. He was a thirty-five-year-old bus driver who had moved to the U.K from Hungary. We shared a flat together in the city of Brighton. One time I was in the kitchen and he was asking me about my life. “So Ryan, what is it that you do exactly?” I looked at him and thought of how to answer this age-old question once again. 

“Well, I work for a bit at whatever job I can find, save up for an adventure and then go on it. I also do a bit of writing too.”

 “Oh,” he said. “That’s cool. I wanted to do a bit of travelling when I was younger. I never got round to it though. I guess it’s too late now. You can do that stuff when you’re your age, but at my age it’s not so easy.”

 “Why not?” I asked him. “You don’t have any responsibilities. And you’ve got savings. You can start travelling next week if you want to. Just book your flight and pack your bags.” It was at this point he looked at me as if I had just suggested to go out and murder a small child. 

  “Well, you know, I’m getting old now. I can’t just quit my job and run off into the wilderness. I need to find my own place. Need to settle down; need to get my shit together…” 

 “Is that what you really want to do?” I asked.

“It’s not what I want to do; it’s what I have to do. Otherwise I’ll end up single and living in a flatshare all my life. No offence…”

 “None taken.”

“You know, I really did want to do what you do. I wanted to go to South America and Asia and Australia. I wanted to experience other cultures and climb mountains. I still do want to do those things. Perhaps one day when I am retired, but now I need to focus on other things. It’s easy to do in your twenties like you, but at my age there are other things you have to worry about. You’ll understand.”

He went on and on making excuses while I just stared and listened. Looking at his circumstances, I did not see any real barriers in his life; at least not any that existed anywhere else other than his mind. But he was always this way since I had moved in a few months previous – panicking about his age and his situation; talking about how he needed to find his own place, fill it with furniture, find a girlfriend etc.. Never at peace and content with his life; never enjoying it because his mind was constantly stressing about the future. The strange thing was that listening to him I could hear he wasn’t even excited about those things; it was just something he felt he had to do because of social and cultural pressures. It made me sad. As cliche as it sounds, there is so much you can do in life, and usually it was just simply a matter of finding the strength to believe in your own voice. I wanted to tell him this, but in the end I didn’t say anything; I just finished making my lunch and retreated back to my room. But I carried on thinking about those mental barriers people erected to limit their life possibilities. I had met so many people like him with the same old excuses, the same old dogmas – the same old mental gymnastics to justify why they weren’t living the life they actually wanted to. For a moment it reminded me of the film the matrix; when you see people plugged into the social matrix, wanting to shake them out of the spell and wake them up to the reality of life. I wanted to do this to him, but I instead did what I always did and just typed out my thoughts on a computer instead. Here is what I wanted to say to him:

‘You do not have to do the things you think you are supposed to do. You do have to spend your one existence mindlessly adhering to social conventions. There are as many ways to live as there are as many people on the planet; recognise this simple fact and realise you can do whatever you want to do with your life. Yes, the peer pressure will come, the heavy hands of society will fall on your shoulder, your parents will try to usher you to one direction, but stop, look around. Be silent. Have a think to yourself. Is that what you really want? Is that going to make you happy? In this life often the only restrictions to doing things are physics and law enforcement. With an open mind the possibilities are almost endless. You can join the circus. You can build a boat and sail to Spain. You can live in a van and become a rock climber. You can move to China and teach English while writing a dystopian novel. You can do so much, yet the formula has been laid out by the establishment: go to school, get a degree or qualification, get a steady 9-5 job, find a partner, get married, have kids, get a mortgage, live in one place, go on package holidays, watch television after work, get drunk at the weekend. And so many people just blindly accept it, never realising that life is a wonderful opportunity to walk any path you can just about imagine.

Yes, of course there are some limitations. You will need money and to fit in with society to some degree. I’m not saying it’s easy to slip free from the shackles of this system we’ve created, but it can be done. I know this because I have seen it done. I have seen it done by a street performer playing his guitar with a sort of otherworldly passion. He was a man who quit his career job and lived in a van while street performing around Europe. He lived solely off the money he made from his performances. Then there was the American girl who worked half the year in hospitality and on a marijuana farm. She stacked that cash then booked a ticket to somewhere in Asia to roam around for another six months. Then there was the cycle tourist who roamed around Europe on his bike; the pole-dancer dancing her way around the world; the chef living in a cave in Thailand. God, there were so many people out there living life the way they wanted, overcoming those mental barriers that were erected through cultural conditioning. They were people who knew that as long as you have the basics covered for immediate survival, then everything else is just a simple rewiring of the mind. Yes, you will have to overcome not having stability and security (which are also mental illusions incidentally). You will also have to overcome people judging you for choosing to live differently to them. For finding the strength to overcome these things, I recommend the following: meditation, yoga, psychedelic drugs, walks in nature, and time spent experiencing other cultures. These will help your mind to sober up and show you that your mental reality is built so much by your surroundings, and that it’s all relative – that your mind is programmed by the cultural ideology of the place you were born. How you perceive life and what you think it to be about will be completely different if you were born in a different time or age.

When you start to realise this, then you can begin to look around and see through the illusions of your society. You can watch the people so clearly programmed by their media, their peers and parents, and their educational system. You can spot the people not speaking as individuals, but simply regurgitating the slogans of the culture they were born into. Illusions are what makes the system run, and some may argue that the system is important. Well, I think that system is not truly serving everyone and making them happy. Are you happy? Only you yourself can answer that, but I know many people that aren’t. So many people I know are on antidepressant meds and therapy. They are escaping through cocaine and alcohol and television. They are constantly stressing about the future. Society is sending people insane. And this is because their inner voices have been drowned out. The only answer I can say from my experience, is to turn to yourself. You’ve got to get back in touch with your soul and find what is real to you.

Also realise that no one really knows what the fuck they are really doing. 95% of people are following the herd, doing things because they want to fit in and be accepted among the crowd. These people have no right to judge you if you want to do something different. They have not found it in themselves to explore life beyond the cultural safe-farm, so forget about their limited perspective. You will have to overcome fear of being different; of walking your own path. But I can assure you this will fill your heart with a joy that cannot be bought in a goddamn furniture store.

I guess if I’m saying all of this then I should probably also say a little about myself. I am just a guy who one day realised that trying to fit in and do what was expected of me was slowly killing me. I went to university, thought I would get a career job after and become a normal civilised person like you think you should be. But I always knew in my heart that wasn’t my path; and the more I tried to follow it, the more depressed and empty I became. So one day I decided to start travelling the world, living for the experience, finding my own truth from beyond those fences of social normality. It is that following of which has led me to writing these words now. These words came to me by believing in my own voice; by kicking down those barriers in my mind and realising that an empowered individual, in touch with their own existential core, can live life whatever way they can imagine. And you can do the same too brother. You can do the same too. So come on: think about it. Think about taking control of your life. Think about doing something because your soul calls out for it, not because you’re ‘supposed’ to do it. I dare you. Take that trip to South America. Pursue your passion. Stop missing the beauty of life because you’re stressing over what you should be doing. One day you’re gonna be in that hospital deathbed, staring out the window as the light leaves your eyes. At that moment you will realise just how precious your one fleeting existence was, and maybe, as they say, your life will flash before your eyes. So make sure it’s worth watching…’

(yes, in hindsight I realise a lot of this was talking to myself)

thoughts

~ An Awakening ~

woman field

~ An Awakening ~

“And there comes a time where you no longer need the acceptance of others. You do not look to fit in or to impress those around you. You toss aside the script and walk out into the world, no longer striving for any form of social validation. Instead, you watch the others run around on the hamster wheel, and you observe the strange way of things – the trivial pursuits and worries, the needless stress and anxiety caused by following the herd. You turn your back on that game and within you a private joy begins to blossom. You discover incredible beauty in the world around you. You find the gold in a sunset, in walking alone in the woods, in watching the rain drops snake their way down the window glass. Suddenly the world is a treasure chest of wonder, and all those things advertised to you on the billboards become meaningless, and opinions of you hold little weight, and money is just a means to an end. And for the first time since you were a child, your curiosity and imagination returns to its natural state. You are experiencing life how it’s meant to be experienced. And you realise it doesn’t matter how any external goals you chase, for as long as your brain is conditioned to constantly think of the future, you will never be happy and content in the present moment. Because peace and happiness is not something to be obtained or purchased or earned. It is not something hidden over the horizon under a rock. Rather, it is a state of being already pulsating inside of you. It is the universal bliss of being alive in the here and now. And it is only when you let the noise of society fade from your mind, when you stop trying to fit in and chase things, that your eyes truly open to what’s in front of you and you finally discover the joy that everyone is looking for.”

short stories

~ In Between Places ~

~ In Between Places ~

Living in a hostel in my own country, I had become one of those strange ones who was a drifter in their own ‘home’. There was no way around it when people asked what I was doing; I was without a job, without a place to stay, without a woman, a car, and any real sort of life plan. I was floating in the existential breeze, a modern-day drifter, and no matter how clean my clothes were, people still stared at me like I was a bum when they found out my circumstance. I guess in reality that was the truth these days. After all, I had just spent the last couple of weeks drifting around the country on a bicycle – my few belongings crammed into a couple of flimsy pannier bags while staying in random hostels along the way. On top of that, I had quit two jobs and lived in three cities within the space of nine months. I was out living on the edge and it was a strange feeling because, although I had a decent amount of savings in my bank account, I still felt as though I wasn’t far from being completely in the gutter altogether. I guess that was just the anxiety speaking.

The time spent doing nothing allowed me to reflect a lot on what the next chapter of my life would entail. It seemed the coronavirus crisis had put an end to any international backpacking desires – that world was at least a year away from recovering to its former self. The best thing I decided for me was to get my own place and wait it all out, try and get some words down on paper and some miles down on the bike to maintain whatever sanity I had left. I began searching for a place and quickly found out I was no longer worthy to pay overpriced rent to landlords. Most house shares and apartments demanded ‘PROFESSIONALS ONLY’, as well as proof of income, three month’s bank statements and references – none of which I was duly able to provide. I quickly realised that, even with those savings in my account, I was not able to integrate myself so smoothly into human society. So in that hostel I dwelled, perpetually extending my stay every couple of days, telling people I was looking for a place and was just there temporarily whenever they enquired about my living circumstances. 

It seemed I wasn’t alone in being in between places. Another woman in her fifties was staying at the hostel in the week while working as a nurse, before going back to stay at her mum’s on the weekend. Then there was the Brazilian guy working there after leaving his family behind in Brazil. Then there were the people from the council who were put there temporarily while searching for housing. That’s not to forget the Chinese girl waiting to see if her visa was granted so she could stay in the country. All in all, it was a random collection of vagrant characters, and it made me feel slightly at home to be around people whose days and weeks were not scheduled or planned to any civilised degree. At night, we sat in the kitchen and chatted away while the world of society went on outside. The hostel was on top of a hill and I stared out the window and saw the lights of the city shimmer below: settled people in their settled lives, going through the roundabout of their routine existence’. Did I want to be like them? At the moment, for the first time in my life, I felt like I did, but I knew I’d also be feeling lost after a couple of weeks in that life too. No doubt the problem wasn’t my circumstance, but myself (as usual).

My days continued to meander on in the city of Sheffield. I took myself out hiking and cycling in the peak district. I saw some friends and drank some beer. I soon got to the point where I had no motivation to even look for a place to stay and entered into some sort of passive, detached state. I sat in parks and stared into space for hours. I aimlessly drifted down the city streets, deciding at the last second where to turn. One day that random route took me into a rundown bar in a rough neighbourhood. I sat down beside the bar and drank a beer when a guy I had met on a medical trial the year before walked in. We started catching up and I soon realised my situation wasn’t so bad. He confessed to me his drinking and gambling problems, and the fact he had spent a grand in the last five days, as well as his frequent visits to the local brothel. Maybe I had no direction, but at least I wasn’t that low, although the bottle was tempting me more and more. I tried to stay away from drinking heavily to help keep my mind clear, but pretty soon I was back at it with people in the hostel, stumbling to the pub with my comrades of the rootless life. I guess there was no way around it. I needed it there and then to help alleviate the anxiety of my situation.

I continued to look at the options I had and felt no desire toward any of them. A couple of years ago, I would have got on a plane to anywhere that I could afford. But now, something in me had seemingly changed. I was in between places physically and mentally. There was no clear thought process; everything was hazy and it was like reaching the peak of my entire existential journey through life. I was drifting in a smoky mist, expecting to see the sight of a lighthouse somewhere in the distance to help direct me towards the shores of belonging. But the reality was that the shoreline was never going to come. I was a lost sailor out on the ocean of human existence, and for now the fog was thicker than ever – my mind in a state of frozen helplessness. I think many people experience this in their lives at some point, but for me this seemed to be my eternal state. The state of being in between places. The state of feeling lost. The state of total non-belonging to the world around me.

Some more days drifted by and I eventually managed to get some viewings for places to live. I had decided Sheffield wasn’t the city for me and that it would be better to retreat back to Nottingham – the city I had lived in previously before the coronavirus had forced me to move back with my parents. I arrived at the viewing and was shown around the property by the landlady. It was an old Victorian house on a quiet street, occupied with two other tenants – a Spanish bartender and an old sound engineer who lived in a hut at the bottom of the garden. After introducing me to them, she showed me up to my room in the attic conversion. “The previous tenant was a woman who lived here for eleven years,” she said as we entered. “She was an alcoholic and didn’t look after the room too well, so I’ve cleaned it all out and redone it completely.” At that moment I looked around the room and imagined that woman being myself; someone who had stumbled in there one day while unsure what to do with her life, and had ended up dwelling there for over a decade while enslaved to the bottle. It was a grim thought and I looked at the bed in the corner. I looked at the old desk beside the window. The sight of it all made me feel uneasy. There was an aura of sadness and I imagined my months and years passing by between the walls of that small room. I imagined lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling as the fire inside me finally died out. I wanted to run far away from it, but there was nowhere to run to anymore. It was either this, or back to the hostel, or back home to live with my parents. Seemingly, I had been cornered by life.

After the viewing, I went to a park I knew and lay there in the grass. It was a hot September day and the park was full of groups of people, all relaxing and laughing; drinking and playing sports together. It was the same park I had visited frequently the last time I lived there. I walked through it and sat down in my usual spot – a patch of grass beside a tree on the back of the field. Deja vu struck as I beheld that familiar sight, and it seemed I had gotten absolutely nowhere since the last time I sat there. In fact, I had even gone backwards. I had even less direction than usual and I didn’t know whether to take the room. I didn’t know whether to book a flight to some far-off country. I didn’t know anything and I just sat there like a statue frozen in time. Perhaps the future would hold something better for me, I thought; something where I at least felt a connection to what I was doing, but for now I was directionless, passionless and devoid of any real zest for life. Questions about what I was doing with my life would have to be avoided and deflected. I was in survival mode; just holding on until the fog in my mind cleared and some basic way forward was revealed. This was it. There was no great wisdom or revelation like in past times. My guts had gone; my burning desire for life extinguished. There was nothing left to do and, with that, I laid down on the grass, looked up at the sky and closed my eyes – hoping my dreams at least could save me from the reality of life.

thoughts

~ Accepting the Rough ~

~ Accepting the Rough ~

“God, I wasn’t made like they were. Their stable minds and smooth edges. The way they fitted so easily into the system. How orderly the words came out of their mouths. How neatly they wore their clothes and shoes. The way they walked and the way they talked. They were all well-made components of some machine. But me? I was crooked and bent-shaped – a jagged piece of the jigsaw. My thoughts were not those of sanity or sensibility. My heart longed for things that couldn’t be purchased in any store. My soul screamed out for something not in my surroundings. It was a strange way to be and for a long time I was sure I was destined for suicide or madness. I stared into that mirror and saw my demise unfolding before my eyes. Not knowing quite what to do, I went out into the world to try and see what I could discover about myself. I packed my bags and wandered in foreign lands. I drank with strangers, worked dead-end jobs. I climbed mountains and hitch-hiked on country roads. I stared out at sunsets and wrote poetry under the stars. Amid that tempestuous journey of self-discovery, I came to realise that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with me. Sure, I had flaws like most people, but I also had many strengths and, I believed, a good heart. And the more I wandered, the more I even came to discover that there were others out there like me. They had walked a similar path and had felt similar things in their hearts. Their eyes shared that same look – a wistful one which held a deep longing for some sort of home. I even spoke to them; became friends with them. Those people gave me a hope I had needed and told me that there is no inherent right or wrong way to be. I may not have been a smooth piece of the jigsaw, but I was myself and that is enough. And yes, I still know my life will be less straightforward than most, but I have found a sort of spirit inside of me that will keep me going on this solitary path. On that path I now stride as I wear my rough edges with pride and know the secret beauty of not fitting in.”

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thoughts

~ A Slow Depletion ~

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~ A Slow Depletion ~

“Alone in a rented room, just a desk and a single bed, and a laptop to write. But the laptop’s battery was broken and its charge slowly depleting down to zero. It was a symbolic situation I guess. For a long time now I had felt myself being drained of whatever life was inside of me. I knew the people beyond those walls didn’t understand or care. It was a sick society and people had their own problems to overcome. Depression. Anxiety. Past traumas. Redundancies. Divorces. Midlife crisis’. The horrors of everyday life were being raged upon many out there. Faces passing you on the street were masks hiding a mess of internal troubles. Life was a constant storm and it was only natural that your eyes looked up to the skies for some sort of help. Myself? I figured if there was a god, it was a trickster god. There was no way these sorts of scenes could come into place by some benevolent force. I looked out and saw a society where people emptied out over years of monotonous routine; where people went insane in small rooms alone; where people’s dreams were suppressed and their prayers remained unanswered. Meanwhile, I stared out the window and watched the birds in the trees. They didn’t have money or jobs or civilisation or dreams. But I saw more victory in their existence than I did in the one we had entered ourselves into it. I figured the reason behind it too. Life was incredibly simple at its core, yet we insisted on making it complicated. Our brains are over-saturated computers that buffer and crash and stall. Our senses have been overloaded by the noise of society. We are the computers that crash, the batteries that deplete. We are slowly running down to our destruction as we become more and more convoluted. For now, it’s trying to make sense of this crazy world while hitting the keys of this slowly-dying computer. Just another person trying to make their mark before the life leaves me completely.”