While my friends were getting high and chasing girls down parkway lines I was losing my mind

I used to keep a diary (and by diary I mean I opened up Microsoft Word and wrote a couple of sentences about how I felt that day). It’s been nearly a year since I wrote anything in it but I just found it and decided to have a read and see what ridiculous things I used to write about. I completely forgot that when I used to keep this ‘diary’ I was completely miserable and not enjoying college in the slightest and just generally hating everything.

I’ll take you back to semester 2 of my first year of college, around the time I started keeping track of my thoughts. My anxiety was at an all time high, I was having panic attacks at least 3 times a week and avoiding going to classes because of it, I was eating a Chinese takeaway at least twice a week (which doesn’t actually sound all that terrible but when you put on weight and you’re already miserable with yourself, it’s awful). I remember crying myself to sleep every second night until I got home at the weekend. Semester 2 of my first year of college was, as you’ve probably gathered, an awful awful time for me.

But the reason I’m talking about the diary I found is because there was one post in particular that just got to me. I wrote it on the 22nd of March last year and it has just one simple sentence;
“It’s easier to like yourself when other people like you.”
I don’t recall exact details of what was going on around then, but I do remember how I felt about myself. Like 99% of the world, I struggled (and sometimes still do I guess) with self esteem issues. If you had asked me to pick out my least favourite thing about myself when I wrote that diary entry, I honestly don’t know how long we’d have been talking about all the things wrong with me. Don’t get me wrong, I can still give you a long list of things I’m not too fond of about myself but what I’ve managed to learn in the last year is that there’s more important to just let it go and to stop being apologetic for the way I look and to start to actually like myself.

I guess the whole reason the diary post got to me was just because I can’t remember what it’s like to be that sad about things. The last year hasn’t been perfect, and it’s taken a long time to get over a lot of my own problems with…well, me, but it’s been worth it. I’ve surrounded myself with some really excellent people who have unknowingly made me feel better about myself just from really simple things that they do. I’ve become one of those people that enjoys working out (I know, I kind of hate me for that too) simply because it makes me feel better about myself. I’ve got things to look forward to, I’ve got the company of wonderful people, I’ve got it pretty good.

But the main thing I’ve learned is that it’s more fun being unapologetically happy than anything else.

There was another diary entry I found. It was written exactly a month after the other one I’ve already mentioned and it too is only a sentence long;
“Fuck anyone who says you can’t choose to be happy.”
It takes a lot more than just waking up one day and deciding you’re gonna be happy, but when you get to the point where you do want to make a change, fucking do it and don’t look back because I promise you it’s not gonna be easy and it’s certainly never gonna be perfect, but it’s most definitely worth it.

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A brief guide to being a good customer

  1. There’s this really cool thing called manners that’s really appreciated.
  2. Why are you taking your anger out on the cashier when you could be, oh I don’t know, acting like a decent person?
  3. If you’re that person who walks in 2 minutes until closing time, every single shop assistant is bitching about you.
  4. Oh you’re buying perfume/aftershave for your wife/husband but have literally no idea what they like and now you’re a little bit angry because I’ve been asking a lot of questions to try help? Allow me to recommend the most expensive perfume we have.
  5. Some questions are completely valid and I understand that you might feel stupid asking, but if you have to ask what 3 for 2 means there’s no hope.
  6. You know what’s really hilarious? Picking up an item and then deciding you don’t want it but leaving it in a completely different place, you can only imagine how much we love playing your weird game of hide and seek.
  7. It’s a little awkward for both of us when you’re buying condoms.
  8. I have uttered the words “you can only use the advantage points on your card if it covers the cost of what you’re buying” and had people get mad at me for it. I cannot apologise enough for rules I don’t make.
  9. Saying thank you goes a very, very long way in retail (I already mentioned manners but I’m mentioning it again because it can really cheer a cashier up).
  10. If you’re telling me to hurry up because you have a bus to catch or some other place to be, trust me, I’m going as fast as I can – if you’ve told me to hurry up, I want you gone as fast as possible too.
  11. Just generally remembering that people who work in retail (or any kind of job) are also humans with real feelings is a really nice thing.

Building bonfires on my vanities and doubts to get warm – just like everybody else

By the time I was 13, I had friends who had started dieting, and what makes that sentence worse is that I thought it was completely normal. By the time I was 13, some of my friend’s biggest fears was putting on weight. By the time I was 13, I had friends who had fully convinced themselves that what they saw in the mirror was the most disgusting thing they had ever seen.

Where have we gone so wrong that young girls and boys – children – are growing up learning that it’s ok to hate themselves? When did it become more acceptable to bring yourself down than to accept and agree with a compliment someone is paying you? Why is having confidence and self worth such a rare thing these days?

Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had the type of body that fits into the clothes American Apparel sells (although I kind of wish I had the kind of money you need to shop there more). Whenever I’m outside that shop, it’s like a dramatic scene from a film where I wistfully think about how I want to be small enough to wear the clothes before I see my reflection in the window and start picking apart my body. I still hate clothes shopping because I hate trying on a pair of jeans that end up being too small because for some reason, every time that happens, a small part of me is embarrassed about having to get a bigger size. It’s infuriating that it’s been ingrained into so many people’s minds that being bigger is the worst thing in the world; surely being disloyal or manipulative or selfish is far worse?

What scares me is that if you were to ask any person you know what their biggest insecurity was, they could probably go for hours listing every little thing they hate about themselves but if you asked what they liked about how they look, how many of us would genuinely be able to give an answer?

Take it from someone who, at the age of 14, brought an extra towel whenever she went for a shower so she could use it to cover the mirror and not have to look at herself because she disliked her body that much – it’s far more fun to not give a shit about how you look. And yeah, that’s far easier said than done but I promise you it’s worth it. Being happy with who you are and being comfortable in your skin is a work in progress and it’s hard. It’s far easier to sit at home and hate yourself, but it’s far more important to be happy with who you are.

I learned a lot about being a friend when I was alone

So I’m gonna share a story today.

Back when I was in second year, a shy awkward 14 year old who listened to Bob Dylan and Paramore religiously, I had a bit of a hard time. It’s not a year I look back on fondly. I remember the point that it all started going downhill was around the time we went on a trip to the Gaeltacht for a weekend and I genuinely said about 10 words that whole weekend. The reason for my lack of conversation was that I had gotten some really bad news and was terribly upset about it and when bad things happen to me, I’m one of those people that will not tell you. I will use the old “I’m just tired” excuse and keep it to myself because I have always had the “well my problems aren’t that bad and other people have their own things to be dealing with” kind of mindset.

After we got back from that trip, I started distancing myself more and more from the group of friends I had. I sat alone at lunch and always made myself look really busy so no one would bother me. I usually sat alone in the canteen and if I thought I was starting to draw attention to myself because I was alone at lunchtime, I’d go outside or to the PE hall. One of the places that I ate in a few times was Mr Heveran’s classroom. I remember I asked him could I sit there one day because I ‘had work to catch up on’.  Being the fantastic man he is, he let me sit there whenever I asked. I’m honestly not sure if he’d even remember me coming to him those few lunchtimes but I was always grateful for it.

I can’t remember how long I sat alone at lunch for but I do remember I once called home pretending to be sick because I just did not have the heart to do it that day. That was the same day a girl in my year wrote to me on MSN (back when MSN was all the rage) to make sure I was ok. We had chatted a few times before and somehow the topic got onto how I sat alone at lunch sometimes and she asked me to sit with her and her friends the next day.

I guess the moral of my long winded “I know what being alone is like” story is that the smallest gestures do make a difference. That sounds so incredibly cheesy but I was in such a terrible place until someone reached out and made an effort to make sure I was ok. So just be kind to each other because you don’t know the depth of difference your actions are making, and what better legacy to leave than one of kindness?

My friend Lauren wrote a really excellent piece on the misconceptions about depression (http://ellaur.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/depression/) and it inspired me to write this post, so go check it out if you haven’t already!

Surviving the World Cup as a non-sports fan

  1. Don’t complain about the amount of tweets about it on twitter (let’s face it, sports fans had to deal with you when you live tweeted the Eurovision, it’s only fair)
  2. Don’t watch a match with a sports fan if you’re not ready to get as invested as them. Especially if said sports fan is someone you’re close to – you will see the relationship deteriorate before your eyes.
  3. You will witness emotions in the next few weeks you never thought a man could feel.
  4. Apparently, supporting a team because their jersey is your favourite colour isn’t how the game works.
  5. If you’re struggling to understand the game/the rules/the whole point in general just say things that sound like you know what you’re talking about e.g ‘oh no that player didn’t get the ball when he should have, what a shame’ or ‘riddle me this, fellow sports fans, if you’re not allowed tackle someone why did that handsome fellow tackle the other man?”
  6. (My father just informed me that those statements might make people want to punch you in the face)
  7. Man United are not a team that plays in the World Cup.
  8. If you’re like me, you also need to learn some teams that aren’t Man United.
  9. Prepare yourself for many a “jumping on the bandwagon” comments.
  10. If all else fails, just talk about how Wayne Rooney looks like Shrek.

How do I Leaving Cert? Part 2

  1. Your graduation will be an emotion-filled night with really heartfelt conversations and there might even be some tears…but then you’ll all be really embarrassed about it because 2 weeks later you see each other again for the exams.
  2. Opening your exam papers and trying to predict what’s going to come up this year doesn’t count as study.
  3. Geography students: learn off the Sue Honan revision book and you’ll be fine.
  4. You’re focusing so much on the poetry part of the English paper that you’re forgetting the story/essay is worth 25%.
  5. Don’t be the fool I was and focus so much on the poetry that you panicked when it didn’t appear on Paper 1 (if you don’t understand why it’s ridiculous to panic over that, you should probably open your exam papers and start taking this thing seriously)
  6. Sticking in song lyrics to your story is a clever plan, but an even cleverer plan is stealing the storyline to a book you’ve read and tweaking it to suit the title (I stole a chapter from Stephen King’s ‘Salems Lot’ and guess who got an A1)
  7. Someone is going to cry after the maths exam.
  8. Avoid History students before and after their exam because that is the kind of panic you do not need to surround yourself with.
  9. It’s best not to mention to your mother you left your exam after an hour.
  10. It’s even better not to leave your exam after an hour.
  11. Don’t overdo the ‘Granny lit a candle for me’ jokes the night before exams.
  12. It’s gotten to the point where you need to stop blaming your lack of knowledge on how terrible your teacher was and just sit down and learn it.
  13. I hate to break it to you, but the exams aren’t actually the worst part of the Leaving Cert; wait til the night before the results come out and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
  14. Don’t steal the debs money. Don’t be that person.

Life lessons from an 18 year old idiot (Part 2)

  1. People who listen to vinyls and people who smoke weed are more alike than you think because they will be sure to tell you they listen to vinyls and/or smoke weed.
  2. Start believing in yourself. Start believing that you’re a good person, that you’re beautiful, that you’re going places. Other people don’t have to believe it but once you do, you’ll be a much happier person.
  3. Non-famous people decide who gets to be famous so stop complaining that the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus are around. You did this.
  4. Nothing will bring you and your dad closer than bitching about your mother. (If my mother sees this, just know I love you and I never meant anything I ever said to him. Also, his impression of you is worse than mine.)
  5. Dieting is all well and good but don’t spend every moment of your life counting calories. Put down your lettuce and eat that tube of pringles by yourself. Don’t let guilt consume you.
  6. There’s no plastic surgery for a personality so don’t be a shitty person.
  7. Don’t let Mean Girls trick you into thinking you’re not being judged on Halloween.
  8. If somebody mocks Harry Potter, get out of there. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  9. If you can’t refrain from talking and messing for the length of the whole film, leave the cinema.
  10. You’re still allowed to like a band even when the world tells you they’ve sold out.
  11. There is no disadvantage to telling your friends how much they mean to you, so do it and do it often cause people forget.
  12. Stop pretending you don’t like rom-coms.
  13. If you still get angry about whether or not leggings are pants, it’s time you re-evaluate your priorities.
  14. Don’t trust anyone, man or woman, who can’t admit that Tom Hardy is attractive.
  15. As long as what you’re doing isn’t hurting you or anyone around you then, as cheesy as it sounds, do what makes you happy.