Tag Archives: Adult Life

The Importance Of Doing Things Alone

A couple of days ago I visited my parents. Now, I realize that I’ve written a great lot about my mother, mostly criticizing things she’s said, done, or believes and, probably still sentimental from the last visit, I need to make myself clear: I love my mother, and I do so unconditionally, the way I believe parents and children should love each other. Of course terms and conditions apply significantly often and, being a queer kid with queer friends, I’ve seen it lead to toxicity numerous times. But the thing is, I do love my mother, very much, and at the same time I recognize that she can, at times, despite being overly caring in her way, hold views that I find extremely problematic.

After that short disclaimer, I now plan to get to our issue: I told her that my best friend has visited Berlin, and she asked me whether she did on her own. After I replied positively, a prolonged silence was followed by: “is she currently in a relationship?” I replied positively again, and my mother’s disapproving response was: “I don’t understand these things. I really don’t see why anyone who is in a relationship would choose to travel all by themselves”.

Now, this is not really shocking, coming from my mother. In fact I could see many of my peers with more or less different approaches to relationships than mine phrase that concern. I’m not going to discuss relationships here, or the way my mother feels about them. What actually felt more limiting to me, than the idea that I’m supposed – according to some people – to do absolutely everything together with my significant other, was the instant impression that the habit of traveling alone can actually be perceived as wrong. “But there are few things that can be wonderful as traveling alone!” I immediately blurted out, and I deemed traveling with other people one of these few other things, but this is not the point here. “At a completely foreign city?” she asked disbelievingly, and I felt so absurd at the realization that she didn’t understand.

Some of the memories I treasure the most are those of myself discovering new places completely alone. They weren’t always 100% happy at their original moment, but they were all rich, and gave me all those cliché things that are actually great chances to get important shit discussed with yourself. I contemplated on age, generations and growing old, while celebrating my birthday alone on a bench at York, reading Romeo and Juliet, crying over an 1₤ donut, and desperately trying to catch someone from home on the phone. I learned the most about art in these moments I stole roaming around the Louvre alone, and actually appreciated the sun on my skin even while being a person from Greece, for that single time in years, that morning I spent lying on the grass of Regent’s park underneath a cherry tree. That was the part where I asked myself why I wasn’t happy, what else I might want from my life to feel completed. Scribbling pretentious poetry on the tram in Budapest before the months that followed of not having the time or the mindset to write anything, casting passers-by for my fanfiction and scrapbooking the day away.

Not all these moments were happy – in fact I was crying during most of them since crying is one of the things I’m truly good at – nor did I discover the universe’s biggest secrets while walking around famous dead people in Paris. But there is a reason I still remember them today, hoping for many other similar moments to come.

Maybe it’s just that I’m one of those people that romanticize everything, and make a big deal about dressing up like a pumpkin in October and spending that cherished day alone in a cute little coffee shop while sipping pumpkin spiced shit and generally smelling like pumpkin a lot. I’m full of clichés, and at some point I realized that maybe that’s okay. The thing is that I can get the full satisfaction out of such things if I do them fully, and if I do them my way. I want to spend as many hours in the art gallery as I want, and skip things I find little interest in, and then walk around a city searching for the Harry Potter spots or photographing ridiculous details that make me the pretentious person that I’ve accepted I am.

That’s why I remember these solitary trips – or solitary parts of trips I made with company – with such pleasure. It’s because all of my sense were more alerted than they can normally get in any other part of my life. I still remember the scents, I still remember the flowers, the piercing cold or the warmth of the sun on my face. I still remember the journey back to the hostel, as I played these games where I pretended that I was returning to my new home in this city I now lived. What’s more, as an extremely anxious person who wants to get everything done their way, I remember freaking out when I couldn’t see all the museums I wanted in one day of my trip, because I ended up spending it with someone else who had different traveling priorities.

That’s not to say that I don’t adore trips I have with my friends, the studying we do together in coffee shops, or our shared activities. In fact I tend to romanticize most of those as well.

I’m leaving on a trip this weekend with my best friends and my partner, to visit my beloved pen pal in Ireland. It is the first trip I’ll go with my partner as well, and this is getting me excited to no end. I’m not trying to compare company to being alone. But the thing is I’m trying to defend the latter, since enjoying yourself while with company is already a thing that makes sense to most people.

I’ve also started becoming convinced that, for women and fem people, it’s even less acceptable to do things alone. Most of the time I go to the beach, for drink or for a walk alone, there will be that dude – or pack of them – that offers me to join them, or offers to buy me coffee if I don’t have anything to do. Some of them can be entitled, insistant and annoying – I don’t need a knight on a white Prius to buy me coffee. But even those who are really nice don’t seem to get one thing: I’ve chosen to spend this time alone. I don’t doubt that the intentions of some of them can be truly good, but when it’s done repeatedly it really tends to ignore that I’m actually occupied at that moment: occupied spending time avec moi-même.

I also know that, for some people, being alone with themselves can induce much anxiety. Hell, 92% of the times I spend the day on my own, I get filled with bad thoughts and all my fears act up. Especially last year, when it was a hard time for me, I couldn’t possibly stay on my own for more than a couple of hours. I completely lost my mind when staying at home, getting all sorts of depressive thoughts, and felt superbly lonely when doing things outside the house without company. I spent a year seeking friends to be with me about almost everything, and most of the time I needed to sleep with someone as well in order to be able to deal both with the night and with the possibility of not being able to get out of bed the next morning. I was incredibly blessed with wonderful friends who practically saved my life. Seeking company is just as important and healthy for you, and being alone is not suitable for all periods in your life.

Different periods in life work differently. When I went away for five days in the summer, while my relationship was still fresh, and both my partner and I extremely anxious about it, it was actual hell. We spent all day on the phone, trying to deal with a flood of anxious, negative thoughts. A couple of months later he had to go away for four days, and even though I missed him terribly, we had both worked on some issues, so that these days apart gave me some profitable time for myself, and made me yearn for him even more. When the time comes for solitary time to actually work for you, you’ll know. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still important to work on dealing with these moments.

The thing is, you don’t have to do everything alone. What’s important is simply to allow yourself to have this alone thing, if you suddenly feel the need for it, whether it be traveling alone, studying alone, going to the theater without any company, taking time at home to watch movies, stare at the ceiling, binge-watch Orange is the New Black, masturbate or stress-bake, if that’s what you’ve missed doing.

Sometimes doing something aside from groceries on your own is demonized, and you may feel like people are staring at you with pity for eating out with no one but your salad and your thoughts to chit chat. But that’s okay, and you need it. Just in the same way you need to do things with other people in order to bond with them, you also need to bond with yourself. Walk around the city, go have a swim pretending you’re a freaking mermaid, take pictures, sit on a bench and write down your thoughts, take the time to fill that scrapbook. Let your creativity flow, organize thoughts and information that otherwise flood you when you socialize. Get to know your weaknesses, even. Embrace the bad thoughts that come when you’re alone, and then seek company to discuss them and feel better. But get a bit closer to yourself. Recharge.

15 Things My Nieces And Nephews Have Taught Me About Adult Life

I absolutely adore my nieces and nephews. I’ve been a Happy Auntie since I was 7 ½ years old – making me one of the youngest aunts in my social circle. (My oldest nephew just turned 18 last year and I was 100% not prepared for that realization.)

He’s not my only nephew, though – in fact, I have a total of five nieces and five nephews now, and not a day goes by with them visiting me that I don’t learn something new about myself, and about life in general. Just as often as they remind me that I’m not really ready to be a parent yet, they also inspire me to try new things and be a better person.

What, specifically, have they taught me?

1. Be fearless (at least most of the time).

Most of the kids are completely at peace with the idea that “trying new things” sometimes means “getting hurt” – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try those new things anyway. Sure, sometimes they are actually scared and won’t do the new thing unless one of their brothers dares them to – but as many times as I’ve turned down a challenge in my life, these kids have motivated me to take those challenges.

With the kids, it usually means something like drinking a shot glass full of hot sauce, or doing a backflip on the trampoline. But for me, it means things like try for that job you might not get, or actually ask the store associate for help instead of walking around like an awkward mess. Okay, so I haven’t exactly got that fearless thing down yet, but they inspire me to try.

2. Everyone (and everything) is special if you look closely enough.

Have you ever talked to a child about something that seems a bit ridiculous to us grown-ups? They don’t see it as ridiculous. It’s completely normal for kids to believe in fairies and unicorns and all that other stuff that we, as adults, think is impossible. Kids see the magic in the smallest things, and even the magic within themselves, and somewhere along the way, we lose that sense of wonder – but my nieces and nephews remind me that we don’t have to.

Just watching the kids play with their broken colored pencils (because I’m far too much of a control freak to let them break my “nice” ones), their hand-me-down toys, and even the strangers that I would have otherwise looked over… It reminds me of the playful innocence that I once had, too, and really makes me appreciate the miracles that exist – even if they’re not really fairies, unicorns, and dragons. To a child, everything is magical until proven otherwise.

3. Trust your intuition.

My nieces and nephews don’t always think things through all the way. It’s not their fault, though – the impulse center of your brain isn’t fully developed until you’re about 25, so realistically, I’m just starting to outgrow my impulsivity. (Or, at least, the bits of impulsiveness that my OCD and anxiety didn’t already squash.) The kids, on the other hand, will do things totally reckless and carefree – and, in most cases, come out better because of it.

Sure, sometimes your gut instincts lead you astray. I’ve fallen victim to poor intuition a few times (usually because I saw someone as special when really they were just manipulative). But the kids teach me that it’s worth taking a chance, just to see if you were right. And, if you don’t get the results you wanted, at least you learned something.

4. Be yourself – unapologetically.

The kids don’t let others influence who they are. They haven’t learned the societal rules that keep us “in place” yet. (Well, maybe the oldest one has, but we’re just going to pretend he’s still little, because I’m still not ready to accept that he’s taller than I am yet.) The kids don’t care what strangers think of them – they know these random people mean very little in the grand scheme of things.

It took me a long time to realize that you really don’t have to care what strangers think of you, and if those strangers judge you for being yourself, that’s not someone you want as your friend anyway. One of my biggest hopes for my nieces and nephews is that they never stop giving themselves permission to be true to themselves – and that they keep reminding me that I have permission to be myself, too.

5. Happiness should be chased.

There was a long period in my life when I felt that happiness needed to be earned. I thought that, if I did all the right things, I would be happy – without having to try. As adults, we learn that there are things we have to do, and be happy manages to get cut from most people’s lists. But why? Don’t we all deserve to be happy?

Watching a child play, it becomes apparent that you will sometimes need to create your own happiness. It doesn’t always come from doing the things you’re supposed to do, and in some cases, those “have-to’s” are really all in our head. Truthfully, being happy with your life is really the only thing you have to do – otherwise, you’re going to be miserable. It should be obvious, really, but it’s something that somehow escapes us once the pressure and responsibility of being a “grown-up” takes over.

6. Self-expression is essential to happiness.

Those of you who have read a few of my posts probably know that I’m big on the idea of journaling – but, realistically, there’s more to expressing yourself than just writing some words down in a book. Kids don’t worry about writing it down, out of sight of others. In fact, they’re usually the first to say exactly what’s on their mind (at least, if they haven’t been conditioned otherwise). If they’re tired, they’ll let you know. If they’re sad, they’ll cry. If they’re mad, they’ll make it pretty obvious they’re mad – even if you’re in the middle of a public place and would really prefer they weren’t so “expressive” at that exact moment.

As adults, we’re often conditioned that our emotions are to be kept to ourselves, or maybe shared with those closest to us and hidden from “public view”. When you ask someone “How are you?”, the socially acceptable answer is always “Good, how are you?” – even though that’s not always the truth. When did it become more important to make other people comfortable than it did to make ourselves comfortable?

7. Love has no ulterior motives.

My nieces and nephews love being dropped off with me, even though they know I’ll probably be working most of the time they’re here. They know what I do (okay, maybe not the specifics – there’s no way I’m talking to them about sex positions, obviously), but they loved me even when I didn’t have such an awesome job. Back when I was working a hundred hours a week* just to make $200, they loved me just as much as they do now that I can afford to spoil them senseless. It’s never been about money to them.

(* – I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a hundred-hour week, but I did do a stretch of three or four 76-hour weeks in a row, and let me tell you… It sucked.)

8. Give what you can give – sharing is joy.

I know, not all kids have mastered this one – but my nieces and nephews are some of the kindest, most generous kids I know, and it’s something I strive for in my own life. If I had a dollar for every time they offered to share the last cookie with me, or when they colored me a picture just because they wanted to give me something, or when they brought me “wildflowers” (aka weeds) or “gemstones (aka yard rocks)… Well, I’d never have to work a 76-hour week again.

Truthfully, most kids start out like this, but somewhere along the way, we forget that giving brings us so much joy. As we grow up, we start to devalue the act of giving to people who don’t do anything in return – after all, “why should we” share the little we have with someone who wouldn’t share with us? But, realistically, giving freely to someone else inspires them to give freely, and it makes the whole world a more loving place. Even if all you can give is advice and hugs, your life will be so much better if you do.

9. Forgiveness is one of the greatest skills we can have.

Kids don’t hold grudges, and if they do, it’s not for very long. It’s not because they’ve forgotten – I still remember many of the bad things that happened to me when I was young – but it’s because they know that bad situations aren’t permanent. When a child gets punished (within reason and within the confines of the law), they’ve usually let go of any resentment by the time they’re not in trouble anymore. Adults, on the other hand, hang onto the negatives and let them define situations that they probably shouldn’t.

Being able to forgive others is just as important as being able to forgive yourself. And, truthfully, that’s another thing that kids are usually better at than the adults in their lives – when’s the last time you heard a kid talking about how mad they were for something that happened ten years ago? (Assuming, of course, that they’re at least ten years old.) Most likely, you haven’t, unless their home life has conditioned them to think that they should feel guilty about it. Why, then, do we teach ourselves that we should be ashamed of our pasts?

10. Be honest – it saves you a lot of trouble.

Kids don’t start off knowing how to lie. My nieces and nephews are really bad at lying, actually, and the younger ones won’t even try. They don’t sugarcoat things. They won’t tell you a half-truth to spare your feelings. And they sure don’t hide the things they do if they’ve done something wrong – just ask a four-year-old if they did something wrong, and they’ll either tell you no, they didn’t, or they’ll cry – letting you know that they did, in fact, do the wrong thing.

Likewise, you can trust the things that kids tell you, because they don’t see it as a risk of hurting your feelings. If a child tells you that you look nice, you really do look nice – at least to them. If they tell you they accidentally broke your favorite cup, then they mean they’re actually sorry that they broke it, and they wanted to save you the pain of finding out about it without warning. And they understand that it takes more work to make up a story than it does to just tell the truth.

11. Your imagination and creativity are meant to be shared with the world.

Kids don’t filter their creativity before letting it out – at least, not until an adult tells them they should. They believe that every idea they come up with is incredible, and with a little work, can be that pure magic we were talking about earlier. Not only are they willing to share their creativity with you, but they expect you to have the same level of wonder that they have – and they’re disappointed if they find that you don’t. (Truthfully, you should be disappointed, too – creativity isn’t just for kids, it’s a big part of effective problem solving.)

As a writer, this resonates really strongly with me – but it took me a long time to realize that my childhood dreams of getting paid to write weren’t silly, they weren’t unrealistic, and they definitely weren’t a waste of my time. I just wish I had realized sooner that being a “grown-up” didn’t mean giving up the things that made me happy – it just meant finding a creative way to be happy with the things I had.

12. Believe in yourself, even when no one else does.

My nieces and nephews are lucky enough to have a strong support system at home, but not everyone believes in them as strongly as our family does. There are always other kids who think that they’re “weird”, but they don’t care. They know what they’re good at, and they know how to harness those skills and make them even better. My oldest nephew actually had a sponsorship from a big BMX bicycle company for a while, because he had the courage to pursue his dreams – and that’s part of why I decided to pursue a future in writing. If he could become a professional cyclist at 15, there was nothing really stopping me from being a writer except for myself.

Confidence is something that we’re taught is a bad thing, as it can border on arrogance if not “contained”. But truthfully, if you’re good at something, you deserve to be confident and proud about it. You deserve to do the things you’re good at, and to cultivate the things you’re not so good at. Kids understand the idea of practicing, and they’re probably going to try as hard as they can to be as good as they can at as many things as they are interested in. Why not? Confidence and determination make the difference between success and failure. Shouldn’t we all strive for success?

13. Always dream bigger than you think is possible.

Kids dream of things like becoming an astronaut, or a doctor, or even a princess or a knight (even though, realistically, that’s not something you can easily “become”). Adults tend to put their dreams through some type of metaphorical probability filter, which really is just a way to excuse ourselves from not trying. I had this filter installed for me at a young age, and it led me to believe that being a writer was not a realistic career objective – so I gave up for a long time.

It turns out, if you keep your dreams big, the answers to your prayers will probably be closer than you imagined. Kids don’t sell themselves short. For the kids who aren’t filtered, they often find a way to make their dreams happen – and they’ll probably get a lot closer, a lot quicker, than those of us who have to return to our dreams later in life. If I had never given up on my dreams of being a writer, I probably would have published a few novels by now, but instead I’m just (relatively) getting started. Please, don’t ever tell your kids that their dreams are unrealistic.

14. Tomorrow is for excitement, not for worry.

Have you ever noticed that kids are rarely worried about what the future holds – unless Christmas or their birthday is coming up? Their innocence tells them that tomorrow is another day, and while they’ll most likely want to do the fun thing sooner, rather than later, they know that tomorrow is better than never.

They also don’t waste their time worrying about the things that could go wrong, because they’re too busy looking forward to the things that could go right. In most cases, anxiety is pretty much nonexistent in kids. They don’t have time to worry. They’re too busy loving their life and being amazing.

15. There’s always more time for work – and never enough time to have fun.

Kids are master procrastinators, but unlike their adult counterparts, it doesn’t come from a sense of perfectionism – it comes from a different set of priorities. They know that there’s always going to be more time to do the not-fun stuff, and while they do understand the importance of deadlines and due dates, they aren’t worried about it, because they know how important it is to be happy. If the things they do don’t make them happy, they don’t do them, unless someone else makes them do them.

Maybe it’s not so great to have this exact mindset as an adult, but being able to distinguish between the things you actually have to do and the things you’re “supposed” to do because it’s the “adult” choice is a skill that most adults have forgotten about. Not everything that we “have to do” is something we really have to do, and if working those extra hours doesn’t bring you joy – why are you doing it? (Admittedly, I’m still working on mastering this one, but I’m getting a lot closer, with the help of my nieces and nephews.)