thoughts

~ The Same Old Feeling ~

lifee

Now I’m turning 30

I’m about to be an age where the average person is supposed to have it figured out. The career, the partner, the place of residence. In all honesty, things haven’t changed much since my 20th birthday. I look at the world I am supposed to be a part of and still feel nothing but total indifference with it. It’s all just so beyond me. The expectations, the traditions, the system of living. I still read the job descriptions and feel hopelessness in my soul. Is that what a man is supposed to become? A business analyst? A communications officer? A marketing manager? I could never bring myself to even engage in that world just cause the very sight of it filled me with despair. Even just writing a CV made me sad. The robotic nature of it; the notion that my intrinsic worth as a human-being came down to some bullet points on a piece of paper. The depressing thought of sitting in front of an employer with a fake smile and speaking insincere words just to get a job I didn’t even want. Then there was the idea of marriage; standing all-dressed up at a pompous ceremony, wasting money on that event while having to engage in small-talk with people you didn’t even like. Kids, well, I looked at how crazy the world was becoming and felt only the selfish wanted to bring more inmates into the asylum. Owning a property also had no appeal; I looked at houses and was disinterested with the idea of looking after them and paying council tax and being tied to one residence. No, all these things still confused and depressed the hell out of me. My mind disregarded it all and instead toyed with far-fetched ideas. Riding a bicycle to Asia. Hiking through the Himalayas. Working on a vineyard in France. Writing poetry under the stars. I imagined myself meeting a beautiful woman and residing in a quiet little village somewhere in Spain, sipping wine as the sun set across the fields every evening. I imagined hitch-hiking around Europe, working season to season while meeting strange and interesting people. My mind was a gateway to a better place and I imagined myself living a life of purity and beauty, far away from the suffocating reality of a society which had taken all the life out of living.

thoughts

~ A Beacon ~

woman

~ A Beacon ~

“You’re not alone. Forget about it. There are many out there who feel like you out there. There are out there dwelling in the crowds, in the cities, in their chambers of solitude. They are returning home to a dark room everyday to stare at the walls. Like you do, they will enjoy their solitude and release from society. They will enjoy their peace and their quiet and their cats and dogs. But a part of them needs to know there are others out there somewhere. So write your words. Spill your soul onto a blank page. Graffiti the walls with your deepest secret. Send out a beacon of your own soul for others looking for some guidance through the wilderness. You never know who is out there needing to know they’re not the last of their kind in this world.”

thoughts

~ Unstoppable ~

“For most human-beings there is no greater spiritual pain than a life devoid of substance and meaning, but if you are willing to do the inner work and have the courage to follow your heart, then one day you’re going to find that thing that sets your soul on fire; the thing that leaves you feeling like you can march against a million armies, and sail the stormiest seas, and climb the deadliest mountains. There is no gift greater than this, and a person who is deeply in touch with their own existential core is surely the person who gets the most out of this life. Unfortunately we are currently living in a society where many are made strangers to themselves – whose morning mirrors show them every day drifting ever further away from the shores of their own souls. This is the fate that befalls so many in the modern world and right now through television, consumerism, social media, drugs and alcohol, we are seeing so many people self-medicating on vices which help them escape from the existential emptiness of disconnected lives. It is an ever-growing reality and to be able to truly live in this day and age, one must be able to do the inner work; to light the torches of self-discovery, to venture wide-eyed into the unexplored areas within themselves, and find the thing that fills their veins with purpose and desire. On the path to a fulfilled and meaningful life, nothing is more important than this. A person who has enlightened every corner of their being, who has found their inner treasure and knows how to yield it while aligning themselves in with the totality of it all, becomes a person of incredible power in a society that seeks to suppress this very state of being. They become wild-eyed creatures of purpose and passion. They become healers of a lost generation. They become empowered, awakened, emboldened, alive. Sometimes they even become unstoppable.”

purpose

thoughts

~ The Wisdom of the Weirdo ~

“To live free, to be free. It’s more than just putting flowers in your hair and quoting Eckhart Tolle. The free souls are the ones who live completely in tune with their inner nature – whatever that may be – and don’t allow the influences of culture and society to distort their unique shape. It’s about being thoroughly yourself in everything you do, and I believe it’s all on a scale on how much people maintain their individuality while fitting themselves into a societal system. I see some people free to a degree: perhaps 70% themselves while the other 30% acts out the social role. I see some people at 80% or 90%. But it’s only when I see someone being completely themselves that I smile and rejoice. Usually these people are known as madmen and outsiders, but what I see is something so beautiful that I can’t but see a great victory in their very existence. The sight of true authenticity brings joy to my heart, and I do not desire to live in a world of people who dilute down their essence to meet the crowd’s taste. No, I long to live in a world of free-spirits, all shining and setting this world alight with the contents of their hearts. I long to live in a world where people’s words come straight from the soul. So please, give me the ones whose tongues know the dance of their truth. Give me the ones whose eyes contain an untamed wilderness. Give me the ones who choose authenticity over acceptance; who choose integrity over integration. Give me the wisdom of the weirdo; the insight of the outcast. Please, just give me some straight-up, pure, unfiltered soul, and no matter how crazy you may seem to this world, you will always have my heart, my admiration and my respect.”

thoughts

~ Overcoming the Block ~

~ Overcoming the Block ~

“Most have within them the potential for greatness. Often all that is needed to obtain it is to overcome a block. This block is one of the mental kind; an inner voice that causes them to stall and stutter whenever they start heading towards the lands of their destiny. That voice is usually made up of two things: fear and self-doubt. Most of the time it is a voice that has surfaced due to the surrounding influences of the individual. Things like people telling them to get real; people dismissing their dreams as crazy; people not taking them seriously at all. All of this slowly gives rise to a defeatist voice in the head that one thinks is their own, but is really just an echo of other people’s fear. It takes great self-belief to quiet that voice and instead listen to the one that sings softly in the soul, imploring you on towards your deepest dreams and desires. Society suffers when this voice is neglected, and the more people not following their inner voice, the harder it gets for one person to work up the courage to do it, for doing so will cause that person to walk in a different direction from the crowd. Well, those different directions are where the gold is found, so if you feel it within you that you want to give it a shot, then by all means go ahead and do it. Start with recognising the fact that people dismissing others for chasing their dreams are usually stuck in unfulfilling lives, only wishing inside that they had it within them to do the same thing. Don’t let them drag you down with them. Lead by example and show them all how it’s done. Perhaps your action will help turn the tide so that we see a world of wide-eyed warriors answering their callings, rather than just sinking into a form of spiritual submission. And even if it doesn’t work totally out, you will still know what it’s like to live with guts, authenticity and passion. And believe me, such a state of being contains a joy that no amount of money or security or social acceptance can give you.”

thoughts

~ A Thought From The Wild ~

~ A Thought From The Wild ~

“I guess I didn’t want too much from life. I didn’t care for all the usual things: money, cars, houses, fancy clothes, careers, status. The only thing that mattered was living my life in a way that made me proud of what I saw when I stared into the mirror. And that pride was only going to come one way: by living a life in line with my values and convictions. By walking a path that was not predetermined, but one that was paved by my own desire and intuition. Such an intense pull to this way of being led me to abandon a conventional lifestyle quickly in adulthood. Maybe that life could bring happiness to some people, but not for me. My heart craved for something faraway, and thus began a journey into the wild – an epic voyage that saw me travelling the earth, climbing mountains, and exploring my inner and outer worlds. I flew one-way to random countries. I almost died on the side of a mountain. I ran outta money and slept on park benches. It was a chaotic journey and there were times I was so confused and alone. There were times when I felt that I had lost my mind completely. But no matter what I felt, that force inside propelled me to keep on following my heart to whatever end. It’s been a crazy journey, and although some people probably consider me still young and foolish, I believe living this way over the last decade has given me something many take their whole lives to find, and many never find at all. That is a thorough understanding of who I am and what my place is in the universe. It is a thorough understanding of what it means to be human, and how true happiness can be felt in the soul. For anyone in the position I was about ten years ago, I can only say this: your intuition is more powerful than you know. You are the maker of your own destiny. Forget what everyone else is doing; if you can feel your heart craving for something not in your surroundings, then go out and get it. Not only will you most likely find it, but you will also have one hell of an adventure along the way.”

thoughts

~ Castaway ~

~ Castaway ~

“The humans in this world often scared me. It was their faces – the way they talked; the way they walked. It was the magazines they read, the television shows they watched, the fake smiles, relentless consumerism and empty conversations. It was true that there were some humans not like that, but they were hard to track down among the swarming masses. Stuck on this rock with them, I liked to have my own space and to be able to travel away from that grey world of concrete and contracts and citizens. Unfortunately my existence on this planet was subject to the concept of money, and this meant I needed a job to do those few things I liked.

I went online and read their job adverts. They all asked for an ‘outgoing people person’; for a ‘team player’; for a ‘career-minded individual’. Reading the criteria, I had to laugh in despair at my limited chance. I was none of those things, so what was I supposed to do? Lie? Wear a mask? ‘Play the game’ – as they often said? If it really all was a game then it was a bad one. It seemed that there was some sort of fix – that the cold-blooded sociopaths and liars rose to the top while the most intelligent took anti-depressants and sat in therapist offices paying for the right not to go insane. In a world of steely-faced executives and agents, I felt like a castaway soul stranded in the dirt, chained down by gravity – trapped in a cage of slowly decaying flesh and bone. Since I was born I often felt homesick for a place I’d never known; homesick for a place I’d never been. In the worst moments I gazed up into skies above thinking that maybe my species was somewhere out there beyond the neighbouring solar-systems and stars. After all, there was an endless ocean of galaxies and worlds out there, but somehow I had ended up in one full of things I just didn’t understand. The situation was strange, but what else could I do? Where else could I turn? Where else could I go?

I thought some more about it and decided that my only chance of escape was to let myself become a beacon of insanity in the darkness. I decided that my only chance of escape was to set fire to my soul and let my eyes blaze with a brightness so bright, that if someone was out there searching for me, they might just be able to find me and come bring me home.”

(taken from my book The Thoughts from The Wild – available worldwide via Amazon)

short stories

~ Hibernation ~

alone man room smoking

~ Hibernation ~

For once, it was a cosy room; an attic conversion in an old Victorian house with a couple of desks, a fireplace, a comfortable bed with paisley sheets, and soft carpeting. I moved into that room at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. I didn’t bother to look for a job when I arrived; the medical trials were still supporting my lifestyle (the most recent one paying a very healthy five grand). The clinic I did them at was just down the road which made it convenient, especially because they had my old address and gave me excessive travel expenses every time I cycled my bike there. So when I wasn’t locked up inside some clinic testing a new drug to treat some disease, I was in that room sleeping, writing, reading, meditating, and talking to people over the internet. In the house there were four other people living there: three guys and the landlady. Oh and a couple of cats. One of the cats was very friendly and came and kept me company in my room, sitting on my bed, staring at me with a look of understanding that I never saw in the eyes of humans. We soon became good friends. Anyway, at this point the country was in a state of lockdown. No pubs or restaurants open, no gyms open, only essential shops allowed to do business. Couple this with the winter weather and short days, then it was fair to say there wasn’t a whole lot to do. I thought about my plan of action and decided the best thing a man like me could do was to move into a state of hibernation while waiting out the pandemic. This I did while spending the days shamelessly carefree, waking up late, avoiding the world, and just generally taking it as easy as possible (aside from a fitness routine I had devised which had me regularly running along the nearby river).

As time went on, I found myself entering a state of total peace and happiness, almost a nirvana-like state of being. This struck me as something quite interesting. All year I had heard about the mental health dangers of closing yourself off and not seeing anyone. Apparently these things were essential to people’s happiness, but seemingly not for mine. The more I avoided society, the happier I became. This was something I first discovered a few years back living in a small room in Brighton – a town I had moved to not knowing anyone. I had felt that peace and happiness then, but this time it was even greater, and I almost felt guilty for feeling this way. It seemed that most people were struggling during this ‘difficult time’. People were fearful, angry, frustrated, lonely, yet there I was – sitting alone on my bed with the cat, meditating my way to a mental paradise. I didn’t need anything else. Well, a bit of human interaction was still nice from time to time, and I got that from my trips to the kitchen where the landlady would be ready to chat away. Other than that I had a new friend in America, Cristina. She had popped up on my blog at the start of the year and we had become pen-pals, and now we were speaking regularly on the phone, sharing our day to day stories, which – from my end – were clearly not too interesting. But it was nice to hear about her life, and even though we had never even met, I considered her a closer friend to the majority of people I knew. 

The guy in the room next to me was also a recluse. He was around sixty and had been living in a treehouse in Mexico for the last ten years until he had to come back to the U.K (for reasons I couldn’t seem to make out). In that room he also lingered in solitude, playing his guitar, talking on the phone to some girl in Mexico who he had promised to go back and see when he could. It was funny; his situation was a lot like mine, even though he was over thirty years older. I considered if that would be me somewhere in the future. At times I did think about going and speaking to him, but ultimately the desire to be left alone was too great, and I felt that was what he wanted as well. Another man in hibernation, avoiding the world the best he could. I left him to it.

Other than him was a guy who lived in a hut at the bottom of the garden. He was also older and unemployed, although he managed to get by with his cheap rent and the occasional day of tree surgery. I only saw him in the kitchen making some healthy meal or smoothie, and the rest of the time he went and got high alone in his hut. He seemed like a nice guy, although his constant need to vent his frustration about the pandemic caused me to be cautious when speaking to him. Anything longer than a one minute conversation would inevitably end in him going on a massive lecture about the conspiracies behind the coronavirus crisis. His rantings disturbed my nirvana, so most of the time I said a quick hello before retreating to the shelter of my room.

The only employed one of the household was a twenty-six-year-old guy who worked in something related to environmental science. We shared a beer sometimes in the kitchen, and out of everyone there, he was the one I had most in common with. Unlike me though, he had a girlfriend and this kept him busy during the pandemic, along with his work which he did from his room, so naturally I didn’t see much of him. 

And then finally was the landlady herself: a retired nurse in her sixties, who loved to bake cakes and host music lessons, although naturally they had ceased due to the pandemic. She was a ‘high risk’ person for the coronavirus due to several health conditions, and this also caused her to become a recluse, although she seemed to be quite at peace with this as she baked her cakes and watched her seemingly endless list of TV series.

So there I was: in a state of hibernation with all these other people in similar states of hibernation. Four people living under one roof who rarely interacted, yet we all seemed fairly happy. Maybe this was just the new way of things. Maybe now society had simply gotten so insane that the way to human happiness was not by interacting with the world and having an active social life, but instead by claiming whatever small space you could find. Of course, this wasn’t how it was for most, but at least from what I saw in that household, it definitely was that for some, and especially for me. The weeks went on and my happiness just increased until the point where I felt the best I had ever felt. I just wanted to stay forever in this cosy space, sitting on my bed, writing random things like this story, and meditating with my cat. That cat had been living this way all its life, and I guess all cats lived that way. They were beings that knew the secret apparently. And I couldn’t help but smile as I watched him sleep in a little ball at the bottom of my bed. No stress, no problems, no drama. A world of apparent crisis and insanity lay out beyond those walls, and it seemed the best way to peace was just to avoid it. That was what I planned to do for that entire winter, and what I planned to do in some way for the rest of my life – finding my peace and happiness by claiming whatever cosy space I could.

Anyway, time to go and meditate for the third time this day.

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.

articles

New Book: No Filter Necessary

Hello guys!

If you regularly read my blog, you will know that I normally just post my pieces of creative writing without any sort of casual ‘blogger’ chat (sorry, not sorry) – but today I thought I’d break that trend just to introduce my brand new book…. (insert drum roll)

mockup book
No Filter Necessary is my latest collection of writings, the third book in an ever-growing catalogue of work. It is a book that is made up of my stories, thoughts, notes and poems – all of which offer a revealing exploration of my own consciousness, characterised by my introspective and existential voice. People have described my work as “poetic”, ”raw and honest’, and that it shows the world through the eyes of the soul-searching outsider. No topic is off-limits (sorry Mom and Dad) and I write about cheery things like depression and social alienation; about alcoholism and failed romances; about being off the rails as my world falls completely apart around me.

This first-person, autobiographical style of writing is something I’ve been exploring and evolving for the last three years now since I properly started my writing journey. That journey began with me walking away from a creative writing master’s course at university back in 2017. I knew from the very first class that my path was not on the course, and just a few weeks after starting, I quit and booked a ticket to Mexico to carry on travelling the world and following heart through life’s bewitching wilderness.

When I returned from that trip, I started a blog called ‘The Thoughts from the Wild‘. The concept of this blog was to post pictures of people hiking in nature with some sort of internal dialogue about life or society. This concept allowed me to finally find and develop my writing voice – one that I have continually been evolving through the completion of my first book The Thoughts from the Wild, my follow up book Scraps of Madness: The Notes of a Wanderer, and now my new book – No Filter Necessary. 

no filter necessary 2
It’s been a journey of constant experimentation to work out what exactly it is I am trying to do with this artform, but I feel that this piece of work is the most fully realised version of the vision I have been pursuing for a few years now. While I am happy to a degree with my first two books, I feel they were full of teething problems that I have sorted out to complete my most accomplished piece of work yet (of course, I would say that – but it’s genuinely how I feel!) If you wish to purchase it, please find the UK version here, and the US version here. For anyone else in a different country, please just search the title name in the book section and it should appear near the top of the results.

Thanks for reading, and I will leave you to the opening section of the book. Otherwise, stay tuned for more introspective, autobiographical madness in the near future. Ryan 🙂

No Filter Necessary

“Of all that is written, I love only what a person has written with their own blood.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

No Filter Necessary: a brief note

“But why can’t you just speak up about how you feel? Why can’t you just say what’s on your mind? You don’t always have to keep it locked up inside your own head. Please – just share something with me….”

It was in a hostel in Vietnam where I heard those words. I had just spent the last week travelling around the north of the country with a Danish girl. Naturally we had bonded over that time and formed a close connection. One night we were sat in the courtyard drinking beer and smoking cigarettes when she started to tell me about her troubled past; about her eating disorders, her mental health problems, and the childhood beatings from her father. I sat there nodding my head and listening in, just as I had done so many times before with others. Often while travelling I had found myself in the situation of being someone’s momentary therapist. On mountains paths, sunset shorelines and in smoky bars, I had stared into the eyes of others and listened to them share their secrets. Tales of pain and desperation. Tales of trauma and heartbreak. The suicides of friends. The divorces of lovers. The abuses of childhood. The emptiness of unlived lives. So many people had opened up and allowed me to go beyond the surface level of their character. But as she started asking me about my own issues, it suddenly hit me that I was always the one listening in, but never the one sharing any issues of my own. I stalled and puffed on my cigarette, trying to stop my mouth from spewing its mess and madness upon her. “Just open up and say,” she said, spotting my stalling. “You’ll feel better from it, I promise….”. An awkward silence ensued until I eventually mumbled a few vague things about past battles with depression and a general feeling of being lost in the world. She nodded and congratulated me on opening up, but we both knew I was holding back – that I was alone with my thoughts as I had always been. An atmosphere hung in the air until we eventually moved on from the conversation as we went to bed and sank into the silence of the night.

That moment in Vietnam stuck with me and over time I came to think about why it was so hard for me to share what was on my mind. I guess I was never too good at speaking up about how I felt. Staring into the eyes of my fellow humans, I often thought they would throw me into the nearest mental asylum if they were to see the contents of my head. It was something I had felt from a young age. All throughout my childhood, I spent my time daydreaming and getting lost down the rabbit-holes of my own mind. I lived inside a world of my own making, while sending out this surface-level character that would go out and interact with the regular world. A mask was on; a filter hiding my true colours. As I got older there were times when things started to get stormy beneath the surface. There were times when I felt hopelessness in my heart; when I felt the demons encircle me in the darkness. No matter how bad things got, I never sought to let my thoughts see the light of day because, as I said, I thought they would just be dismissed as nonsense by other people. And besides, even if I wanted to talk about how I felt, I just couldn’t seem to find the words. It was like there was an ocean of thoughts inside my head, and speaking was like trying to get them out through a bathroom tap. So on I went wandering through life, lingering in that solitary world inside my head, often drowning in my own thoughts and feelings.

One day I was sitting on my bed when, struck by a moment of sudden inspiration, I went online and created a blog. It was a blog inspired by a YouTube channel which played ambient music alongside pictures of people hiking in nature. Often I listened to that music and stared at those pictures, wondering what those people were thinking while in such beautiful surroundings. Getting into the heads of those people, I began to upload the photos onto my blog alongside some sort of introspective dialogue about life or society. The blog was called ‘The Thoughts from The Wild’ and it soon started to grow as people resonated with the things I was writing. I wrote about social isolation. I wrote about wanting to live true to yourself. I wrote about pain and love and hopes and dreams. After a while, I realised that the words I was sharing were the things I had always wanted to share with the world. By stepping into the heads of other characters and expressing myself through a pseudonym, I had seemingly found a way to drain that ocean of thoughts inside my head. The blog continued to grow as tsunamis of truth poured out of me. My heart became less heavy. My true colours could be seen. And I felt good. 

Over the next years, I grew more and more connected to the process of writing. I was still not totally able to express myself face to face with another person, but I was able to get down my thoughts truthfully onto paper. Through the art form of writing, I was able to finally show people that solitary world inside my head. This book is the latest journey into that world. It is a collection of thoughts, notes, short stories, and poems – all inspired from a life of what would typically be called that of ‘the outsider’. The writings reflect a period of life in my twenties that was marked with excessive physical and mental wandering. In it lie the truths of my journey. The pain and the ecstasy. The joy and the despair. The light and the darkness. In it lie the things I couldn’t say to that girl that night in Vietnam. It hasn’t been easy for me to write some of these things, and I still feel strange about sharing my deepest secrets, but I hope sharing the contents of my own mind can inspire others to do the same. Because right now in this world so many people are wearing masks and letting their true colours be filtered out. We are characters on the stage of society, and I believe many are going insane because of it. But what if we could all throw away the mask for a short while? What if we could open up and share the secrets of our hearts? Just imagine how different the world could be if we all found a way to let the filter fade and our souls show…eye

~ A Piece of Me ~

They say broken hearts can’t be healed, and it’s true. They can be pieced back together, but always they will show their scars. Those scars tell my story and it is one of pain and madness. I have stood in rooms of darkness staring into nothingness. I have crawled through swamps and sewers of desperation. I have screamed out alone in the torture chambers of my mind. My soul has been ravaged by a world in which I didn’t belong. Into those morning mirrors I stared, seeing the latest damage being seared into my soul. Often, I couldn’t help but look at that reflection and wonder what would be left of me? When the years had run their course. What would be left of me? When the storms had rained their rain. What would be left of me? When the demons had had their way with me one more time. I didn’t expect there to be much. The storms would continue and this heart of mine would continue to bleed out over the years. Still, sometimes I collected that blood and poured it into a poem or story. It gave me relief and some people out there even seemed to like it. This was our nature. We were all parasites of each other’s pain. The blood and guts of others give us the fuel we need to continue on. It is our nature to feast off the scraps of another’s soul. I hope this piece of mine gives something to you.

~ Beaten ~

Eyes full of sickness and sadness, I stared at the dancefloor with a feeling of resentment. There they all were: those happy people with their happy faces. They moved effortlessly across the floor like they moved effortlessly through life. No doubt they all lived sane and orderly lives of structure and stability. They didn’t know my pain, my madness. They didn’t know what it was like to linger always on the sidelines and stare on in. I stood there doing exactly that, leaning on the bar while watching them as they moved and grooved. I downed a double whiskey coke while continuing my distanced observation. I drank another one then realised my friend had left with a girl. I looked around for any possible chance with a female before conceding defeat and heading for the door.

Exiting the bar and stumbling out onto the street, my eyes beheld a jungle of kebab shops and neon lights leading me through the city centre. I watched as drunken revellers shouted, scoffed food, and clambered into taxis. The human race was a wild species that had been tamed by its own creation of civilisation, but there was still a certain level of anarchy we allowed to unfold. This was best witnessed at 3am on highstreets full of broken bottles and broken minds; on highstreets where couples stood screaming at each other; on highstreets bearing piles of puke that were symbolic of the inner sickness of our society. The sight of it all made me sad and it was at this point I remembered it was my first time in Sheffield and that I was supposed to be staying with my mate who had just disappeared. I had no battery on my phone to contact him and suddenly found myself in the situation of having nowhere to sleep. Not an ideal situation, admittedly, but by that point I was too drunk to care.

Lost in the blur, I carried on staggering down the sidewalk until three men started speaking to me. I must have said or done something slightly disagreeable because the next thing I know I was getting the shit kicked out of me on the floor. Kicks and punches rained down upon me. My body ground against the pavement. Venomous words of hate filled my ears. The beating continued for a good thirty seconds until the blurry figures ran off down the street and disappeared out of sight. I picked myself up and assessed the damage. Blood dripped from above my left eye as my ribs ached and hip throbbed with a friction burn from the concrete. I knew immediately that my body was going to have more scars – more symbols of defeat etched permanently into my skin and flesh.

Still not knowing what to do or where to go, I wandered aimlessly around the early morning city streets while looking like someone from a horror movie. Eventually a policewoman picked me up after some bystander spotted me in my gory state. I told her what had happened as she drove me around town in her car. I guess I was expecting to get taken to a hospital, or perhaps to the police station to file a report, but in the end she just cleared up my wound and dropped me outside a closed train station. I got out of the car and stood there alone in the cold winter night wearing just a t-shirt. Cuts to the public services in Britain had resulted in this; underfunded and overstretched, they looked for any way to avoid you utilising them. Consequently I stood there shivering and staring into the empty station, waiting for the damn thing to open. My ticket wasn’t until noon, but I decided that I was just going to board any train I could. If only there was a train off this planet, I pondered.

Finally the station opened and I went inside and sat down on a bench in the corner. Back on the sidelines again, I resumed my distanced observation of the human race. I watched the smartly-dressed business people get ready for another day at work; I watched the mothers quickly glance at me and look away in horror; I watched the little kids snicker and gossip about the wounds on my face. Those looks followed me onto the train where I tried to sleep but was woken up by a ticket inspector who told me my ticket was invalid for the current service I was on. I got out my card and paid for a new one as the conductor kept his distance. Thirty minutes later, I arrived in Derby where I was meant to switch trains to Nottingham. Looking at the board, I could see it would be a fifty-minute wait in the cold until I could catch the connecting train. Suddenly it was all too much and I left the station and paid for a £30 taxi back home.

I think it was about three o’clock in the afternoon when I awoke finally sober. Being too tired to clean myself first, I had collapsed onto the bed and left bloodstains all over the sheets. I grabbed them and threw them in the laundry. I then went into the bathroom and stared at my beaten face in the mirror. Back in a normal state of mind, I could finally see the severity of the beating I took. There were deep cuts, bruising and bumps around the left eye, as well as a few scratches on the right. It was a sorry sight to behold and I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be going on a date with a girl later that evening. Maybe it could be rearranged, I thought. I then spoke to a friend on the phone who convinced me to head to the hospital to check for a concussion. I walked there for an hour as people continued to look at me like some sort of circus freak. Reaching the hospital, I stood and looked up at that grey building with its rows and rows of windows – windows in which the dying lay dying; windows in which those old hearts beat their last beats, those lungs gasped their last breaths, and those eyes soaked in their last bit of light. I guess that’s where we all end up, maybe with a few relatives and flowers beside us if we are lucky. I headed in where the doctor inspected me and told me that I didn’t have a concussion but that I needed to be careful. I then asked if there was anything I could do to stop the inevitable scarring around my eye. No solid advice was given.

All things considered, I sat back and knew it had truly been a night of disaster. Perhaps the most disastrous of any night out I had been on, and there had been a few dramas along the way. I thought the situation couldn’t get any worse, but apparently the gods had a few more tricks up their sleeves. When I returned home, I checked my jean pockets and realised I had lost my passport at some point during the night. I also remembered that I was supposed to be starting a new job in a few days, and that I would have to turn up on my first day with my face looking like I had just ten rounds with Mike Tyson. That’s not to mention what the girl would think of me when I showed up to the date. It was a sorry state of affairs and, all of a sudden, a strange feeling fell over me. I touched the wounds on my face and felt like crying. It was the realisation of the horror and futility of it all. The world was relentless pain and agony, and no matter how good things got, you were always just a short way away from being stamped down by the boots and fists of life. I was only one week into the new year and already it was looking to be another one of misery and destruction. The gory reflection in the mirror said it all. I was a beaten soul, scratched and scarred and stained with a dirt of which I’d never be clean. It was a sight I had beheld many times in my life – physical and mental wounds that gathered over the years; wounds that told the story of my turbulent path through life that seemed to only get worse and worse.

I continued wallowing in my self-pity until something strange suddenly happened. Out of nowhere, I burst out laughing. I stared into the mirror and laughed and laughed until my stomach hurt. I then walked back into my bedroom and laughed some more. I even did a little dance in front of my wardrobe mirror while marvelling at the absurdity of my appearance. The misery subsided and out of nowhere I felt a strange determination within me. It was something that always appeared in moments when I was stuck in the swamp of despair. The more this world tried to stamp me down, the more I just wanted to rise up against it and bare its blows. No doubt I was still just in shock, or on the way to losing my mind totally, but I looked at my reflection and told myself I was going to make sure my life would be lived before death had its dirty way with me. With that thought in mind, I showered, put some cream on my wounds, drank a beer and got dressed for my date.

It was going to be another magical evening.

~ “You’re a Dreamer” ~

“You’re a dreamer,” she said to me.

“Yeah, and what’s wrong with that?” I replied.

“Nothing I guess. It’s good to dream. But you need to be realistic too.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well,” she started. “You want to not be shaped by the system, to live your own life and do what you love – I understand that and commend you for it – but you gotta keep one foot in the game, you know? You need a reliable way to make money, and some basic security. I’ve seen people end up in serious trouble when they just march against the system not giving a fuck.”

“Really? Like who?” I asked.

“There was this one guy I once knew who had a bit of a crisis and quit his insurance job to pursue his passion for film-making. He lived off his savings and devoted most of his time to directing short films, hoping to break into the industry. Within a year he was jaded and depressed and trying to get his old job back, but unable to. He couldn’t keep up his expenses and had to move back with his parents. The recession then hit and he figured out he didn’t actually have what it took to live on the breadline while chasing a dream. Most people need that safety net. Perhaps you should find a way to have a stable career and do your writing in your spare time.” I paused and thought about it.

“Well, I’m not like most people,” I said finally. “I’m willing to live on the edge to do what I love and chase my dream. And besides, I have no idea what else I can do anyway. If I end up in the gutter, then so be it; at least I gave it a try.”

“You say that now when you’re young and full of angst, but seriously you may start to crave a bit more stability. Things about the system you thought were traps, you may start to look at them with desire. You’ll see the value of routine and being able to plan your weeks and months. You’ll want to not worry about where the rent money is going to come from. I’m not saying you should give up your dream to be a writer – I hope you live a life doing what you love, as we all desire to deep down – but just be aware not to be too gung-ho and burn all your bridges. Think about finding the middle ground. I think that’s the best way.”

“Yeah, yeah…” I stalled. I was starting to feel a bit awkward and lectured. Still, it certainly was one of the more interesting conversations I’d had on a first date. “I’ll think about it. But whatever happens, I’ll always be that wide-eyed dreamer running toward what I love. Maybe there is a balance, but you gotta make sure that chasing that balance didn’t mean you essentially trade your dreams for comfortable mediocrity. I see that a lot; people giving up on themselves and justifying it by calling in ‘growing up’ or something like that. Ultimately the people who achieved something special were those who had the guts to go all the way on the pursuit of their passions. Yes, that pursuit can take us to the edge, but some of us are born to live on the edge. It’s that edge which sharpens our steel; which puts force behind our fingertips. It’s that edge where our greatest work is done.”

At this point I could feel the eyes of the surrounding people in the bar on me. She sat across the table and also stared at me, undoubtedly deciding there and then that things weren’t going to go any further than a first date. It didn’t need to be spoken at that point and I was okay with it; the thoughts she shared showed we weren’t compatible on that front. They were also thoughts similar to those of my sister. My sister was a bit like me – critical of the system and a bit ‘alternative’ in many people’s view, although even she had eventually decided to pursue a career and embrace the idea of a conventional life. She rolled her eyes and looked at me with a ‘come on’ look every time I started talking about how I was going to work odd jobs and do medical trials to fund my lifestyle. “You need to find the middle way,” she also said. Suggestions came of finding a trade, a stable job, or going back to school – all of those things that seemed to identify you as someone who ‘had their shit together’. The same suggestions came from peers, from parents, and from teachers. I guess people were concerned by my irregular behaviour, and felt the need to share what I deemed the common sense of the average civilised person – the same common sense that caused them to stare at me like a deranged madman when I told them my life plans.

It’s that balance you need, as people kept saying to me. To me, seeing how far you were willing to go on the pursuit of your dream was like a test of courage and resolve; and indeed, it seemed to me that the greatest treasures were found by those who went all the way. I thought about the great artists who had lingered on the edge before creating their masterpieces. I imagined a teenage Bob Dylan packing his bags and hitch-hiking to New York to perform in small cafes. I imagined Jack Kerouac drifting around the United States with barely a dollar to his name. Bukowski starving in small rooms alone. Orwell working as a dishwasher in Paris. Of course, these were the ones you knew about because they had eventually achieved success after living on the edge. For every great success, there were countless failures you never heard of. Or, as another dreamer put it: “For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled.” (Hunter S Thompson)

It did, of course, occur to me that I was most likely to be one of those trampled souls in the dirt, my dreams dying in a ditch as the sun set on my unsuccessful quest of being a writer. But still, the idea of that was still more appealing than passively drifting through life without any fire in the heart. Even if you failed, you would at least know what it was like to live with a genuine passion for life in your veins. When I walked the street and stared at the faces and listened to the conversations, I felt sure that there weren’t many out there who had that same passion within them. Yes, many of them had the stability and the security. They had the car on the forecourt and the rug on the living room floor. The fireplaces were all lit and the fridges all full; but just how full was the soul? How much fire was in their hearts? How many were truly excited about what they were doing with their life? Personally I felt that many people out there lived in a state of quiet desperation in which they grew old in lives that saw them staring at strangers in the mirror; and indeed there were maybe only a few souls out there who had that magic spark in their eye. That was the spark of the dreamer – the free-spirited warrior who didn’t compromise or filter down their heart’s desires for the sake of ‘fitting in’ or ‘getting real’ or ‘growing up’.

And yes, maybe it’s just me being a romantic idealist, but I believe the world needs those dreamers. Those runaway spirits; those renegade souls; those rebel writers. In fact, I believe the world needs them now more than ever, and I was proud to be one of them – or to at least be considered one of them, as the girl on the date did, as my sister did, and many others did. I think that some of them were even envious that they didn’t have it in them to hurl themselves towards what their souls desired deepest. For me, it was the following of that desire that took me first toward travelling – hopping on that one-way flight to South America after graduating from university. Within that came the mountain climbing, the hiking, the long-distance cycling, and finally, the writing and general avoidance of anything that did not truly fulfil me. All of these things were things my soul screamed out for, and answering that call gave me a fulfillment that nothing else could. Yes, I didn’t have much physically to show for it: but if I were to lay down my head and bid my life goodbye, I would not have left this world without too many regrets. And isn’t that what a good life was? To know you lived it completely and authentically and passionately? To know you made the most of your one fleeting existence here on this planet?

That girl on the date, we didn’t see each other again, but that way okay. Some people are not made for our paths, but she did make me think – I’ll give her that. I know that my mind is a little more manic than most. Perhaps the degree in which I live isn’t for anyone, but it is for me. If one day you find me face down in a ditch – my cold dead hands clutching the manuscript of my unpublished novel – know that my life was one in which I actually felt a fundamental connection to what I was doing when I woke up in the morning. I was there in those moments, not someone merely existing like many out there dwelling in dusty offices of the mind and soul, but someone alive and awake to the world around them. Someone discovering a joy that cannot be bought or sold or manufactured. A joy that comes from living from the core of your being. A joy that comes from answering your soul’s call. A joy that comes from running wide-eyed into life’s wilderness, pursuing your treasure, and not allowing anyone else to shoot you down for daring to dream and chase that dream and live that dream.

hand writing