My mum gave me all sorts of man-hating advice when I was a teenager. I laughed every one of her clichéd stories off and flicked my bleach-blonde bob in a way that said “that sort of stuff will never happen to me”. I mean, back then I was a deeply unhappy person and I was still pretty optimistic about my future love life. Boys seemed to like me because I was a totally awesome person. That, or the fact I wore teeny-tiny shorts. Anyway that is not important. The fact is that despite hating myself and the world around me as a teenager the one thing I always, undoubtedly and refreshingly had faith in was love.
Do you ever wonder if you’re someone’s favourite person? Like, do you know when you’re a kid and you play that “what if” game and it’s really intense and hilarious and your best friend at a sleepover goes to you “what if me and your mum were both hanging off a cliff and you could only save one of us?” and you squeal “I’d save YOU of course, my mum makes me go to bed at 8pm I mean how unreasonable” and it’s all happy days knowing you’ve got each other? A bond like that seems so hard to find when you grow up. The people you care about most always seem to have someone they’d pull up from the cliff-edge over you. That’s the harsh reality of being a grown up: no one cares enough to mean you don’t have to try so hard anymore.
Another example is when you leave school and get a job and weee how exciting. Something bad will have happened one day and you come into work all emotional and “accidentally” tipping things onto the floor because seeing as your life is so shit, why not destroy everything around you? The manager comes in while you’re sulking in a corner and gives you a written warning because Cheryl said that Monique said you’ve done nothing all day and it’s really putting a lot of pressure on her.
Wait a minute. Why doesn’t my manager care that I’m upset? Can’t he see that something has happened and now it’s affecting me in my work environment? Shouldn’t I be allowed a time out, or to sit in the office with a cup of tea to cry in to or the day off? Does he have no advice to give to me as his employee? I REALLY WISH I WAS BACK AT SCHOOL RIGHT NOW.
That first moment when the light bulb flashes and you realise people aren’t going to bend over backwards for you anymore is the time when everything starts getting really scary.
Being responsible for you is daunting. You spend your whole childhood and most of your teenage years (varying depending on how overprotective your parents are) wishing everyone would “leave you alone” and “stop treating you like a baby” and “let you make your own decisions”. You count the days down on your calendar with a big fat sharpie until you can finally move out of the family home and get on with your own life because your parents want you to have a horrible life rotting with them until they acquire Alzheimer’s and start shitting the bed.
Let me tell you something I have learnt:
- Your parents DO want what is best for you,
- Your parents HAVE given up their entire life and maybe even burden unfinished goals in order to look after and nurture you,
- Your parents most definitely do NOT want you spending your entire life with them. They want you to “leave the nest”, spread your wings and fly into the big wide world. They want you to live. And while you’re doing that, they’ll be there for you. Worrying and nagging and probing and judging – but there.
Then there’s the whole school culture of being part of one big family (which I’m not going to dwell on because once you’ve been to school for 18 years you don’t want to talk about school anymore). People take for granted what a big step it is to be able to look back on those years and all the concern, support and praise that was showered on you for something very very average and uninteresting.
I was working in a lovely little pub whilst studying Psychology at university a short while back. Everything was getting a bit hectic towards the end-of-year exams so much so that work had become my divine sanctuary. One day I was so lit up by the thought of getting out of lectures and going to work to see all the regulars that I arrived for my shift early and proceeded to work my arse off. I was going to say “literally, WORKED MY ARSE RIGHT OFF” but I have a friend that tells me off for using “literally” incorrectly. You know what I mean though – I’d genuinely never worked so hard in my life. Not many people can say this kind of stuff about their job so I hope that somehow emphasises how much effort I was putting in. Anyway, it came to the end of the shift and I was clinking glasses with the last few straggler customers to celebrate a job well done when my manager came thundering down the stairs. He’d been harassed by Head Office all evening for something-or-other and hadn’t been able to witness my Godly Workings.
“Have you finished closing down the bar yet?”
“Not yet, I was just –“
“Well what are you doing STANDING AROUND and DRINKING when there’s STILL STUFF TO DO?”
This is what went through my mind at the time: Oh my actual god, you have NO IDEA how hard I have been working today while you’ve been up there oblivious to my struggling probably doing things that don’t matter because I am clearly the only person that cares about this place and puts any sort of measurable effort into its upkeep I do so much work and get no gratification for it I genuinely deserve a worker-of-the-week award and if that doesn’t happen here IT SHOULD BECAUSE I DESERVE ONE”.
I went bright red, blinked back tears at the injustice of my life and got to work.
Thinking back on that day whilst writing this it is so outrageously obvious to me that a) there was no way my manager could have known how hard I had been working, b) of course he was actually doing something worthwhile and more than likely worked just as hard as I did dealing with much higher-up matters of the business and c) why the fuck should he care? I expected to get rewarded for basically doing my job to a decent standard. In an ideal world yes, workers would get rewarded for doing well because I’m a firm believer in positive reinforcement, but this is in an IDEAL WORLD. In an ideal world there would also be an end to world hunger and war and everything would be free and my thighs would never look huge but regrettably that’s not how it is.
This brings me back to my original point: no one cares right now. Everything is so difficult and life is so hard for you that you forget about the starving African babies riddled with AIDS and you tell yourself that it’s “so unfair” that you’re you. Woe is me, and all that. However, there is one thing that makes this feeling go away in my experience. And that is love.
Ah, love. “An intense feeling of deep affection” or “feeling a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone” are the two Google definitions I just read. To me the most valuable part of love is that feeling that there’s always someone there. I’m not saying that love = stability because otherwise I’d have been in love with my GCSE maths teacher and mayn, he old. He was a legend though; I don’t actually know if I’d have achieved an A in maths without him. He also promised me that he’d bring in a “Choc Ice” if I passed my exam, which he never did but I didn’t mind. Anyway, tangent. What I am saying is that for me personally, being in love settles the constant feeling of “where do I belong?” in my life. I have a habit of questioning everyone and everything (and not in an insightful or intelligent way). Being in love means the weight is shared between two pairs of shoulders instead of one. Your parents and teachers are obliged to support you because that is their job (obviously this is not the only reason they support you, I’m sure they also have a heart); your partner commits to you and all of your baggage because they want to be there for you. How wonderful.
I’ve recently been through a break up and I’m really down about it. If you’re wondering why I’m suddenly this spitting, profanity-ridden pessimist compared to my usual blog post tone and subject of “being happy” and “finding happiness” and “why I’m happy” then that’s your answer. And so here’s what I have learnt after all of this: try not to put all your hope on anyone. In my last blog entry I came up with a term called “forever-thinking” in which you subconsciously consider something always there if it’s going right for you in your life. People you fall in love with are the worst specimens of “forever-thinking” because 9 times out of 10, it won’t last. I’m too depressed about the whole thing to research some actual statistics on break-ups but we all know it happens far too often. Don’t fall into a false sense of security with someone and share your burdens with them because your shoulders get used to a reasonable weight and then BAM – double whammy all for you.
Despite being a festering ball of anger right now I have not completely lost my mind; I am not telling you guys that I think relationships are shit and not worthwhile and that YOUR BOYFRIEND IS GOING TO LEAVE YOU AND THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING. The point of this post is to remind people that it is so difficult to lose someone supportive in your life, just like moving on from school and the family home. It gets to a point where you can’t expect anyone to put you first. “How could you do this to me?!” is something I have repeatedly screamed at ex-boyfriends (usually accompanied with something flying across the room and snot all over my face) as if they have some sort of duty to keep me safe forever since they took me on in the first place. Yes, “took me on”. Because that’s all you are once you become an adult: extra work. You aren’t worth anyone’s while unless you’re contributing to a work force or giving out frequent blow jo- I mean, making someone happy.
I’ve decided to try and live life with a greater sense of self-sufficiency. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that in order for you to offload all your issues onto someone you have to take a load of it in return. In the end that’s effectively double the problems you had when you halved yours with your partner and it’s always worse when you feel like there’s realistically nothing you can do to help them. 99% of your worries or problems can only be solved by you no matter what you convince yourself.
If you’ve got an itch on your back and your partner scratches it for you, yes – you no longer have an itch. But what about the next time you’ve got an itch on your back and there’s no one there to help you? You have to find a ruler or something and get it scratched yourself. That’s probably a bad example but my back is genuinely itchy right now and I’m just rubbing up on the sofa like some kind of sex-deprived maniac in order to scratch it without moving from my seat. Although that would be very embarrassing for anyone to witness I feel so proud of myself for dealing with it on my own. And do you know what? It would have been so much less distressing to cope with the second time if I’d done it on my own the first time.
It’s a good feeling to overcome something on your own (especially when it’s on a bigger scale than a back itch) because once someone does it for you, you tend to rely on them to be there whenever the going gets tough. I know that there’s people that love and care about me in this world, but we’re all our own No. #1s in the end.
It’s probably healthy to remember that.
A big thank you to Sam who proof-read the whole thing for me at 3am in case I was too angry for anything I write to make sense.