On Being Positivity Adjacent, and Being Ok With It.

I am not what you would call an overly positive person. My brain is simply not wired that way. Part of this has to do with having a mental illness (depression, represent!), and part of it is because, on a fundamental level, it just isn’t who I am. I err on the side of pessimism, and I tend to find it a greater struggle, and much more of an effort to be positive and cheerful and optimistic about things.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately. A very good friend of mine has recently begun to immerse herself fully in a journey of self discovery, and she’s doing all the better because of it. I talk to her, and feel inspired to be better, to try harder, to push myself out of my comfort zone and throw myself into the deep end of human interaction and brand new experiences. And then the inner voice that lends itself to my decision making, reminds me that I don’t like people, and I feel uncomfortable in social situations, and that I am much happier just living my little hermit life. Then, for reasons beyond my understanding, I feel guilty about it. Why is it so hard for me to put myself out there? Why do I loathe the idea so much? Is there something wrong with me?

I’ve been asking myself these kinds of questions a lot in recent weeks, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there seems to be an influx of people lately, urging me to try dating sites, and to get out there and meet potential partners. And every time, I laugh it off, and tell them that I am happier on my own. Which brings a myriad of questions and doubts from the people trying to set me up. After all, it’s a truth universally acknowledged, that everyone else knows more about how you should live your life than you, the one actually living it. At least, they think they do. I’ve spent most of my life single, and the idea of dating is largely unappealing to me. But the major argument against this, is that I don’t know unless I try, and that I could be missing out on something great because I ‘cut myself off’ from any possibility of romance.

Secondly, I’ve been spending a lot more time on my own than normal, in my house, locked away. All the friends I made here are working in a job I no longer have, and I don’t know anyone else here. I’m still unfamiliar with this town, despite being here nearly five months, and my days off are mostly spent inside, or adventuring to other towns by myself. Again, the very idea of meeting new people is daunting. And, by the way, how do you even do that? I mean seriously, do people just approach others to strike up a conversation and end up with a friend?

I went to a networking event the other night, and the girl hosting it talked about finding your passion and rolling with it. Which sounds great in theory, but I don’t know that I’m passionate enough about anything to want to make it my job. All the women there seemed content to chat and plan and interact. And this is where I differ from the above mentioned friend. I think she took a lot more from the night than me, because she’s willing to be open to new experiences and to try new things. And I felt bad because I was acutely uncomfortable in this room full of strangers, and then I felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough, and that I had failed in some way. Why couldn’t I talk? Why did conversation make my throat tight, and my heart race? Why did I feel a little relieved when the headache that had plagued me all day intensified to the point where I couldn’t stay?

What I’ve come to realise, amidst all these self doubts and existential questions, is that whilst I may not be as socially outgoing as my friend, I do have an inherent curiosity, and thirst to learn more about…well, everything. I too am open to experience, and discovery, and knowledge. Just not with other people. And there is nothing wrong with that, and certainly nothing wrong with me. The fact that positivity doesn’t come naturally to me, is not necessarily a flaw. It is nothing more or less than a quirk of my nature, a part of my genetic makeup, if you will. It is me, and I’m good with the person I am.

I know what I want to do with my life. I want to adventure places, see the world, be inspired and create, in any way I can. But career wise? I got nothing. Romance? I’d prefer not to. People? Thanks, but I’ll pass. And whatever I may do, it isn’t likely to be with rose colored glasses and a positivity hat. But with pragmatism as my super power, I’ll do just fine.

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Inspired

I haven’t written in probably 12 months. Somewhere in between new jobs, moving house a few times, trying to ‘maintain my sane’ and general, everyday life stuff, my inspiration to write fell by the wayside. Actually, ‘…fell screaming and tumbling down a ragged ravine to die slowly and painfully over the course of a few months’ is probably a more accurate description. Suffice to say, it’s been a while.

Recently, I’ve been strangely motivated. Where this motivation has come from, I can’t say. All I know is, over the last couple of weeks, Inspiration has returned from her year long hiatus, to slowly reintroduce herself into my life. Take, for example, my instruments. As I’ve said countless times before, I’m a collector of string instruments with no talent whatsoever for playing them. Last week, on a whim, I picked up my violin, got it in tune as best I could, found a tutor online, and started to practice. I’m not making music, mind. The sounds I’m coaxing from the strings are more akin to the wailing of a dying cat (sorry, neighbours), but I know how to hold the bow and where to place my fingers on the neck, which is a far cry from where I was. And I’m actually motivated to continue my practice.

Broken A string was subsequently replaced 😅

Then there’s my sewing. With all this free time on my hands (I’m still only working two full days a week), I’ve really been putting my time and effort into creating. I’ve made two skirts in two weeks, and soon I’m going to tackle sewing with knit fabric, which up until now, I’ve avoided.

Skirts a la Amy

And writing. As I said, it’s been a while. But lately, a couple of characters have started wandering through my head. It started with a casual, almost hesitant hello. I left them alone, allowed them time to develop and come to me. Now, those characters and I are on polite speaking terms, and over the next couple of days I plan to start moving them to a more tangible home on my tablet. The bones of a story are coming together in my mind, and I need to get it all down before the flighty Muse decides to go on another adventure and leave me inspiration-less again.

I’m feeling strangely positive about this, guys.

F*ck You, Aunt Flo

It’s 7:30pm. I just ate a bowl of pasta, and am now seriously contemplating eating an entire block of mint Kit Kat chocolate. And I’m riding the crimson wave, bitches, so nothing you can do or say is gonna make me feel shame.

I gotta tell you, I know all women hate getting their monthly subscription to pain and irritability, but I really think I drew the short straw. See, menstruation (and for those of you screwing your nose up in disgust, it’s not a dirty word) is all about baby making. By some flawed design of evolution, the female body is made to create life. Which is fine for those of you who actually want to bring a mewling infant into a world already overcrowded, but what about those of us who don’t want devil spawn?

A friend of mine once said, in a self -admitted moment of mental blankness, that she thought I was so lucky because ‘lesbians don’t get their period’. It was one of those things said without much thought, that had the entire table of our friends in uproarious laughter. I responded with something like “I wish I didn’t! I mean, it’s not like I need my uterus to make a baby, so I don’t think it’s fair I should have to suffer!” And, folks, therein lies my point.

I don’t want children. Despite how often I get told that I’ll change my mind, or that I’m too young to know what I want (I mean come on, really?) or that I ‘just haven’t met the right person yet’, I have not even the slightest hint of maternal instinct. Babies are kind of gross. It’s not their fault, of course, they’re tiny and largely helpless, and they didn’t exactly ask to be thrust into the world. But nevertheless, the desire to have one of my own simply isn’t there. So, I can’t help but feel personally victimised by my uterus every time it decides to punish me for not doing what this fine body of mine was supposedly built for.

If women had a choice, I am certain that not a single one would elect to have a period if they didn’t have to. It’s unpleasant, uncomfortable and, at least in my case, bloody unnecessary. Aching boobs, abdominal cramps, hyper emotionality, mood swings, and let’s not forget the incessant bleeding. It’s just buckets of fun.* But, as fate and unfortunate evolution would have it, those of us born into womanhood have to suffer monthly. Until we don’t bleed anymore, and then we just have menopause to look forward to. I tell you, whoever, or whatever designed the female body has a cruel sense of humor, and a lot to answer for. So, I’m turning to chocolate and wine and my couch for comfort. They might make me chubby, but at least they don’t feel like a tiny man with a chainsaw for one hand, and a jackhammer for the other, hammering and slicing into my midsection for kicks.

Image property of Sarah Anderson

*that was sarcasm. Having your period is not at all fun. It’s a great big bag of dicks. Or…vaginas, if we’re being accurate about it.

Behind Closed Doors

I almost started this post with “the problem with anxiety and depression is…” but the truth is, there isn’t just one problem. There’s about five billion. So, let’s begin again.

When an outgoing and gregarious friend unexpectedly tells you that they’ve been to see someone about anxiety and depression, it kind of knocks you for six. It’s easy, you see, to look at someone’s outward personality and assume everything is ok. It’s easier still, to not even consider the possibility that they may not be ok, because they’re not the kind of person you readily associate with the black cloud of mental illness.

Anxiety and depression can affect anyone. In fact, statistics show show that 1 in 4 Australians will experience anxiety, whilst 1 in 6 will experience depression at some point in their lives. That’s a fucking lot of people. And, unlike a physical ailment that can be fixed with a bandaid, mental illness is not so easily remedied. It’s all consuming and bleak and confronting, and there’s no easy fix.

I’m a ‘suffer in silence’ kind of person in most aspects of my life, so I can understand why it’s easier to pretend things are ok than to tell people that you’re having a difficult time. Why it’s easier to lock the bad things behind a door and pretend it doesn’t exist than talk about it, or face the hard reality of it. And that’s why it’s never a good idea to simply assume that someone is ok.

Ask. Check in. Be there to lend a shoulder, or an ear, or to just sit in silence. Because you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.

Request Denied

My Instagram profile is set to private. I am not a public figure, a famous person, or even the slightest bit interesting to anyone who doesn’t know me. Or probably to the people who do know me, to be honest. So I’m always a little taken aback when I get the notification “this perfect stranger wants to follow you”.

The idea behind social media is literally in the name; to be social, to connect, to engage with other people. I myself follow many people I don’t personally know but in those cases, it was either a direct link from a blog or YouTube video, encouraging followers, or the profiles are public and heavily focused on things I have an interest in. I follow profiles of writers, fellow bloggers, musicians and people who share the same music tastes, sewists, artists, the odd nude model, witchy folk…but many of those profiles I’ve found on the Instagram discover feed, and are intended to gain followers.

Something like this blog is different. It’s a form of social media, sure, but the whole point of a blog site is to have people read what you’re putting out there. If having a private profile were an option here, how could anyone find other writers/bloggers they like to read. But on an app entirely based on photos, there’s a reason having a private profile is an option, and many reasons why mine is not public.

I, and my private profile, am not all that fascinating. Especially, I imagine, to the influx of people wanting to follow me lately. For example, as a misanthropic, anti-religious, perpetually angry heathen, I know I wouldn’t appeal to the three very openly Christian people who have requested to follow me recently. When one’s bio reads “consistently seeking to better myself for the Lord” I can guarantee that my blatant skepticism and disapproval of organized religion would be an affront to their delicate sensibilities. My own bio reads “I geek, I create, I don’t trust garden gnomes.” which I suppose might be enough to pique the curiosity of a stranger? Who knows.

I know that I often get a string of follow requests just after I’ve followed a new page. There’s probably some technological reason for that, which is beyond my understanding of the app. And of course, there’s always the spam profiles that I decline instantly. I’m not concerned with my number of followers. Unlike some, I could care less whether I have ten or ten thousand. So I feel no urge to accept every request to boost my numbers, and rather become increasingly perplexed by the sheer amount of them. To reiterate; I am not interesting. I don’t even have a cute pet…yet.

The paranoiac in me can’t help the wariness that surges up when I see that notification. I confess, more than once I’ve thought “who are you, why do you want to follow me, are you going to steal my identity?!” But then of course, the rational part of my brain says “shut up, you idiot, and just decline.” Which I then promptly do, to almost every stranger. Request, denied.

Why Doing What You Love is Never as Simple as it Sounds

“Just do what you love.”

I get this advice a lot. Being underemployed means I spend a lot of my time searching the internet for full time work. I’ve applied for a tonne in the last couple of months, had one interview for a job (which I was told yesterday I did get), a handful of rejection emails and a whole lot of silence. I’ve applied for anything and everything that doesn’t require a formal qualification (there are a lot of jobs for health professionals, accountants and lawyers in my area currently). And all people keep telling me is “just do what you love”, as if that in itself is easy.

Firstly, the things I love to do are hardly marketable. Sure, I enjoy writing and sewing, but the brutal truth is that I am not good enough at either of those things to make a living from them. And secondly, I don’t know what I’m really passionate about, enough to want to do it for a job. I’ve long since resigned myself to the fact that I will never have a job I love, but at this point I’d settle for a job that pays enough to survive on.

Some people love their jobs. I have friends that studied and are now working their dream jobs. J know people who got a job that turned out to be exactly what they wanted. And some people are just plain positive all the time, and would be happy working any job at all. Me, I would love to own a book shop. I would love to be a musician, playing in small venues to chill crowds all singing along. I would love to write books, or be a travel writer, or just get paid to travel. I would love to review films for a living, or hell, even star in films. And I’ve always kind of wanted to be a mortician. There’s a lot I would love to do, and a lot of reasons why I never could.

I know I’ve said this before, but I envy those who know what they want. And envy even more those who know what they want, and love it. I wish I loved my job, but the reality is that going to work makes me miserable. And since doing what I love isn’t going to make me enough money to live on, at least any point in the near future, I have to settle for any job that will actually employ me. So wish me luck, guys. And I hope the employment gods are listening, because a particular little misanthrope down here is starting to get desperate.

Common Things I Hear as a Shoe Repairer

I’m currently back working as a shoe repairer. Also a watch repairer, and a qualified engraver. And since I’ve been back, I’ve begun to hear again, all the things customers tend to say when they approach my counter. Some irritating, some funny, and some that leave me speechless for one reason or another.

“Do you repair shoes here?”
No, that wall of shoes behind me, and the giant sign out front advertising that we do, in fact, repair shoes, is all just there to trick you. This question always gets me, because its akin to walking into a coffee shop, and asking the barista if they serve coffee.

“Are you going to do a good job?”
Firstly, yes. Secondly, I’m very good at my job, and I take pride in my work, so to reiterate my first point…yes. This is one of the more regular questions I get. For some reason, when handing shoes over, people get paranoid that their items will come back in a worse shape than when they dropped them in. But the whole point of my job is literally to do the exact opposite; I’m a repairer, not a destroyer.

“But I only need one heel.”
This question often arises because people think it will be cheaper to only replace one of a pair. Whilst often one heel is actually more worn than the other, I have to repair them by the pair to make sure they’re an even height.

“Can’t you fit my shoes in? (I’m only here for the day)”
Sure. If you wanna call the ten people who brought in shoes ahead of you, and explain to each of them why you deserve preferential treatment, I will happily do your huge, time consuming job today. My biggest frustration with this question, is the sense of entitlement some people have. I don’t mind fitting in smaller jobs here and there, in between doing other shoes (while I wait for the glue to heat for example), but so often people come up, and as a result of their own poor time management, can’t wait around. They then get mad at me, because I genuinely don’t have time to do the work they require in the timeframes they demand.

“You’re a girl”
Yes. Yes I am. I generally get this from middle aged men, who still live in a time when women were deemed incapable of doing anything. I had a customer the other day who I assume meant to say this very thing, but fumbled his words and instead, ended up asking me if I was a girl.

“Do you actually work here?”
Yup. Hence the uniform. And…y’know, the whole standing behind the counter thing. This is a combination of asking if I repair shoes, and commenting that I’m a girl. Implied in the question is that I can’t possibly be employed as a repairer, and that I must simply be here to serve customers.

But don’t you need a man to supervise you?”
Well, now that you mention it…no. I have nearly three years experience, and managed various stores in the city, so I’m fully qualified and perfectly capable. Further examples of people not acknowledging my skill, on the basis that I don’t have a penis.

“Did it take a lot of training?”
People are always fascinated by how one gets into a job like mine, and because of the skills involved, are equally curious about the training it took to get to where I am. With the company I work for, it was mostly on the job stuff, with an assessment at three and twelve months respectively.

“That’s very expensive. Can’t you make it cheaper?”
This, I imagine, is common of many retail stores. Most of what we do has set pricing, standard across all stores. It takes into account time required, materials, and skills involved. There are always special circumstances and exceptions, but it’s not a regular occurrence.

But that’s not what the other girl said”
I’m sorry to tell you, but I am the other (and only) girl. And FYI there is no way I would ever say that the $80 repair job you have can be done for $15. This is another one particularly common in retail. Customers assume that a) you don’t communicate with your work mates and b) that you’ll take them on face value. In some cases, I concede that one customer may be given conflicting information by two staff members, but more often than not in my experience, it’s just a case of the customers thinking were dumb. We’re not dumb.

Do you know where the toilets are?”
This one comes up a lot, because I work in an open kiosk, in a busy shopping centre, and I guess I’m an easy point of access for questions unrelated to my job. Though sometimes, I can’t help but have a little chuckle to myself when they ask where the supermarket is, because my shop is literally right out the front of the supermarket.

I could honestly write a book about all the strange things I hear at my job. But for now, I’ll leave you with just a blog post!