I’ve recently read four books that have changed my entire perception on life, and only one of them was bought for that intent: ‘You Do You’ by Sarah Knight. But, sometimes, you’ll come across a book or a passage, and your entire life will flash before your eyes. That odd version of the future you paint for yourself as you tuck yourself in bed; the rewritten version of the past where you’re a villain and everyone else are innocent—or the complete opposite entirely.
Either way, it’ll zoom past you like a train not meant for your station. You’ll feel the wind around your face from how quick it rushes past you.
I say all of this, when it may not have been the books at all; something else could have put me in this ‘odd’ place of awareness. It could very well be because we, as a society, have become increasingly aware of how we live our lives. None of this helped by the sudden standstill we are all facing due to an ‘invisible killer’. (Boris’ words, not my own).
Regardless, one of those realisations thumped into me as I finished my most recent read, ‘Everything I Know About Love’. This time, the thump was telling me I have been coasting. Coasting in terms of my happiness and even reaching for the future I want. Instead, I’m choosing the one I think I’d be okay having if I continued to bob along.
I think, in a weird way, because I’ve had such a shockingly sh*t few years with my mental health, I’ve rewritten over all the good things I often deserve. Instead paint myself as this life-ruiner because I’ve had a few breakdowns here or there. Also because, at times, I’ve been unable to do what someone has asked—which for most is entirely reasonable. For a people-pleaser, like me, it is not.
Now, to the paint picture of who I am at this very second. I’m in a baggy t-shirt I’m eating a tub of ice-cream, giving zero f*cks about the recommended guideline—because it’s just been that sort of day. I have my music on full blast, a mixture of sweet, acoustic songs, and fist-pumping songs you’d want to play on the way to a riot.
You see, this ‘coasting’ I do isn’t because I don’t try hard. Hell, I think sometimes I try too hard and make myself ill and because I can only give a 100% to things. I just don’t seem willing to give 100% to the things that only matter to me. It’s as though I only really want to try when someone else’s happiness has some involvement in it. It isn’t because I don’t care about myself, or value myself less, but instead because I’m scared.
Which sounds batsh*t, doesn’t it? Because who can be scared of something they’ve not even applied themselves too?
Apparently, it’s just me.
Because I’m scared of losing—and I feel like I’m losing every single day.
In all the inspirational books, all the young adult books I’ve read as of late. The ones where they save themselves, maybe get the boy (or girl) in the end and some rectify the friendships they lose at the beginning. Most of the time we know the ending—we know it from the set-up. That is a real book though, not like the one I’m living.
I’m also not privy to that book—the one about me—and I’m not sure how this chapter of my life ends. I honestly think it’s the not knowing that scares me the most.
There was an interesting photo on Facebook that caught my eye the other day, and I’m paraphrasing here: ‘Those with anxiety like to rewatch the same TV show over and over again, rather than beginning something new’. It’s something to do with us knowing how it all ends (or works out), and it brings some sort of enjoyment to our lives as we don’t have to wait uncomfortably to know what happens.
I know this is true because I feel it. I dread when I am on the end of an episode and need to wait a week, and not in an impatient way, as in ‘it’ ll-keep-me-awake-for-hours’ kind of way. It’ll make me want to find spoilers, to get up even earlier to catch snippets or GIFs of it online. As much as I hate learning spoilers, I also hail the blogs that discuss episodes live so I know what happens. It’s also why I’ve come to love Netflix’s shows—the ones where all the episodes go up at once, and you can binge until your heart beats normally again.
It’s things like that—bingeing a TV show—that I never do in half-measures. I’ve been known to take days off from work to ensure I can binge an entire season, so I don’t have to wait any longer than necessary to watch it.
I don’t regret it, and if I’m honest, there are only a handful of things I look back on in my time of being alive and regret, and they’re not the ex-boyfriends or the things I never said, but the feelings I had about myself that stopped me from going for an opportunity. To this day, every so often, I find myself wondering why I didn’t go to university with my friends or why I didn’t do blah-blah sooner. And really, that’s the thing isn’t it? I live—sometimes—a lot of my life regretting, and wishing, and don’t realise I’m the one in charge of my own life. I can make my future brighter, more me, but I have to stop longing and start acting.
But, you see, it brings me back to the books. To the wish of a seer who I can ask if my future will bright and happy. Because, in all of the books, we know there will be some form of a happy ending, but in real life the one we are all in now, we desperately don’t want to be the exception to the happy-in-the-end storyline. We don’t want to fall apart, crumble, and the mundane we find ourselves in now be all we always are.
Now, realistically, I know that if I were to push myself and fail, I know it is still better to have tried than not tried at all. I know this because that’s the saying, isn’t it? It’s the competing that counts—or so my PE teacher used to say. But really, for my mind, failing is failing, and that very word keeps me up at night. It’s the one that runs around my brain like a hyperactive toddler on sugar; it’s the word that catapults itself into any thought process, even if it’s pleasant. It’s the very thing that makes me work a thousand times a minute when I’m doing things for someone else, but drag my feet when it’s to bring me joy.
What if I’m a failure?
What if so-and-so and such-and-such thing I’m a failure?
What if I never become what I want?
What will I do with myself, because this is all I have?
I find that when the last question runs around my head, the then cycle repeats. It’s horrid really, I’d think—or like to think—my own mind would be kinder to me, but it isn’t.
That’s the thing.
I’m not kind to myself, and I don’t push for what I want.
When I began my previous blog, the one before I started this, I promised myself when I began I’d at least post weekly—and that happened for all of two weeks. But, I have a lot to say, there are a lot of things running around my mind at the same time; I read almost too much sometimes (scandalous, I know) and yet, somehow I couldn’t post enough content to meet my own set of goals? In truth, the posts were there, embedded in the notes section on my iPhone, but they were never posted, never supposed to come out from draft mode—and it was because I was scared. Sometimes it was due to the words being too ‘honest’ and others it was because they simply weren’t good enough; others it was because it was just a thought, an idea, and some because I honestly didn’t want to post them.
Mainly though, I was terrified of applying myself and it all coming to nothing—desperately trying to be a writer, and failing at it, rendering me useless and with nothing. It then begins that cycle, the one where you’re scared of putting real work in, and not being the star in my own story, and then not being successful, so the cycle repeats.
This same worry has also, slowly in time, bled into my writing, the work-in-progress which is in editing—as it has been for several months now—because ‘I don’t think it’s the right time for it’ and ‘it’s not good enough, really’. They’re all excuses, and even as I say them, I know they are that, but they still pour from my lips with a sweet smile, because not only am I trying to convince those I’m telling, but tell myself too. I lie to myself because it’s easier than being honest, the same as I do to the people around me.
When I read ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’, I came away from that book with a new lease of life. It opened my eyes to being unforgivably selfish, and yes, it causes pain, but Evelyn pushed for everything she wanted. It had a pen in my hand within five minutes of putting the book down because Evelyn—the fictional character—inspired me to live my life to the fullest. She told me, in so many words, to hold no punches, to go for everything I want, and I began drawing out a list of all the things I’d want to have in my life, the things I want to achieve, and what I want the next five years to look like.
Even with the kick up the butt, I ran out of steam quickly. Reality knocking me down a peg or two, and reminding me—in other ways—that my life is not a fabulous novel. I blame the anxiety for that one, but, why can’t it be?
These stories come from somewhere—whether it’s people chasing their goals or those failing as they push for them? If a friend told me they wanted to do their dream, I’d say to them not to hold anything back—to go in all gun’s blazing and paint the world in gold. But, when it comes to me, I tear myself down. I wither into myself, devising reasons as to why I’m ‘unworthy’.
I think this is why ‘Every Last Word’—another recent read—came at such a good time for me. The tale of a young woman in school with diagnosed OCD, recognising her life needed to change—I will say no more about the plot—and in the oddest way, it was another call out. Like the female character, I knew my life needed to change, but the process to do so—the fears of being ostracised by putting them into place—filled me such immense worry, I temporarily forgot how to sleep. I had created a version of myself so unobtainable; I told myself she wasn’t real. But she was, she was here, inside of me, just needing to be let out. The bold, often blunt person who writes pieces like this where she is unforgivable and honest, and also very swear-y.
Both of these books were driving me forward, making me see through the fog and the trees, but these sort of things come in threes. Something I believe in massively.
The final book that has inspired me to reignite my writing passion, and edit, blog, and actually create a real blog—not one attached to my author profile (for the books I haven’t yet finished editing). Dolly Alderton’s ‘Everything I Know About Love’.
In all of Dolly’s twenties, she’s done exactly what she wanted, unapologetically—similarly to Evelyn Hugo. Yes, looking back she likely cringes at parts, but she writes it without forgiveness, shining a brutal honesty and truth on her life with drugs, alcohol and boys. She shares heartbreaking moments of her lives like they’re warnings for things to be aware of. She also highlights the things that we can only ever understand when we have done them ourself. At times when Dolly was low, she looked for things to make her feel better, only realising, in the end, she has to be the driving force for that happiness.
My life, or my twenties, has been wildly spent running from myself and laughing uncontrollably with my husband—who I married at 23, having been with him since I was eighteen. He knows me inside and out, understands why I no longer like to drink, and why I blast Indie music and why I love acoustic gems because they make my heart soar to the point of utter bliss.
Dolly and I’s life couldn’t be more opposite, but in the heart, we share so many similarities it felt like having a coffee with a part of myself I try and ignore. The times of sheer hatred for my body, dieting to the point of fearing food and the unforgivable calories; the selfish thoughts I felt embarrassed to have, and yet filled me with such rage I would find myself being petty for no reason. It’s also the parts where we are running, the soles of our feet worn and our body so tired and drained that I see the most in common with us. We both exhausted ourselves being other people, not realising that the world just wanted us to be us.
It felt as though all of the people in my life, and the characters and authors emerged out of the walls to nod at me, telling me that choosing myself is all they’ve ever wanted. Because no one, not a single other person, can chase my dream; no one else will make my mistakes, or learn from them as I will.
I’ll grow. I’ll fall over, and I’ll get back up.
I’ll need to be forgiven, and likely will need to forgive.
Most of all, though, it isn’t a failure to try and be unsuccessful, failure is never to try at all. Before this post, before May 2020, I had been failing because I’ve been burying my head in the sand, I’ve been running from something I desperately want. And, at the heart of all of my fears, it’s failing that bothers me the most, so surely the only way to not hate myself, not to be the thing I fear the most, I need to try.
So, here I am.
From now on, I’m going to be brutally truthful; I’m going to pull back the layers of my mind, my mental health, and likely the covers of books I adore and tell you all the things I found most beautiful and scarring about them. At times, I’ll be outlandish, sometimes I may be shy, but I’m trying, which means I’m winning, and I want to be a winner.
So, if you feel like you need the kick to chase your dreams, here are some of the books I found myself reflecting on afterwards because I think sometimes, the people in our lives can’t get through to us, but the characters of books can:
- You Do You, Sarah Knight
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Every Last Word, Tamara Ireland Stone
- Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton