Thursday, 11 June 2015

'I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me'

Do you ever feel like you're not really in control? Like you're living your life according to someone else's schedule? That you don't know what you're doing, and you don't know when you're doing it, and you're frustrated? Awesome. Me too. 

I've reached the seemingly boundless blessing that is the university summer holiday and, after months of coursework, revision, exams, post-trauma, anxiety, stress, work, I am finally free. It's a really great feeling. Well, at least it should be. I began my holidays already worried about the amount of dissertation preparation I needed to do over the summer, the job I was about to start, the volunteering I'd signed up for, alongside the fun things I actually wanted to do like see my friends, go on holiday, read, and sleep. I very quickly felt like I hadn't actually broken the cycle of stress, I'd just entered a new one. 

So last night I found myself, as usual, laying in bed worrying. Worrying about why I ached SO much from work on Monday night, how I was going to fit everything in that I wanted to and not be exhausted all the time, why I was so tired doing what lots of people do everyday and could manage fine, what was most important to me, and what was going to happen to the girls in Pretty Little Liars. And then I remembered something that I hadn't thought about in a long time: the lovely Linda Morgan's voice telling me to 'live the life I love'. I started to think about it all with a bit more perspective - about what I can manage, irrespective of what others do, and about what will make me happy at this very moment, and make sure I stay happy. I realised that I hadn't done anything for a long time for the sole purpose of it making me happy: it was because I felt like I should, that's what other people wanted me to do, I'd already agreed to it, or even that it should have made me happy but somehow didn't. I realised that I hadn't felt like I was in control of my own life, let alone my own happiness, and I wanted to change that now before it spiralled too far. I realised that, above all, my happiness was the most important thing to me right now. Because if I'm not happy in what should be one of the most carefree times in my life, what hope do I have for the future. 

And this realisation was a real turning point. I've decided to spend the next 6 weeks doing exactly what I want to do when I want to do it. I've done the stress thing and I know it doesn't work for me: I can't cope with it, and I end up the victim of 'invisible', 'psychosomatic' illnesses, and it's just not worth it. There are things that I know I need to do, like earn some money and do some work on my dissertation, but I'm going to do it when it suits me, to my timetable and no one else's. If I wake up feeling tired, anxious and unmotivated, I'm simply not going to make myself do what I don't want to do. I'm trying to focus on mindfulness, and taking control of my own life and my own happiness and I think the rest will sort itself out, because these things usually do. I feel like there's so much pressure to be seen as being busy, constantly proactive, all at the expense of doing things that make us happy, healthy and relaxed. 

In the words of Zadie Smith, 'I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me', and I'm going to work towards a better definition. I am going to regain control, and start doing things for me again. I'm not going to let my health and happiness pass me by for the sake of earning extra cash, havingng another thing to put on my CV, or wanting to appear the highest of flyers. I'm looking back on the last few months, not the happiest of times, and making sure the next months are better. Whether you thrive off being a busyness, or struggle with the obligations and exertion of everyday life, I hope you make time for yourself too. 

Write your own story, live the life you love, don't let anyone take it away from you. 


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