A Game of Flee and Return

Currently on an airplane off to Spain for a couple of days of climbing. It’s just dawned on me that this is the first time I’ve left the country since I got back from the US in November. That might not sound long – it is only the end of January – but it feels like a lifetine ago. All the joys, feeling enthralled, hurt, sorrow still echo inside me but have become more muted. I suppose that’s an advantage (or disadvantage) of being based somewhere fast paced like London.

I suppose I am fully back now. And yet, every single step I take, I don’t feel like I fully returned. I am physically here, but not all of my soul is. I like to think it’s because I’ve scattered it across the world in some sort of romantic but really quite impractical manner. The urge to leave that resonated with me before my travels is akin to an elephant tripping and crashing into a pots and pans store.

Sit down Louisa, think up a plan and execute it. One day, this game of Flee and Return will become Flee and Visit.

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New Year, Old Me

Just some scattered, rambling thoughts today. I like to use writing like a silent therapist/ philosopher buddy.

How is it that we trust? It’s an interesting aspect of human connections and although it is not unique to homo sapiens, what makes it remarkable is that it is something which we can build and place in complete strangers who we have no right to meet in the natural world. Someone born in South America can very conceivably meet and become friends with someone from Europe in this day and age which suggests location is not a limiting factor.
So what is it then? Thinking through it, I distilled it into a couple of elements:

1) Meeting the expectations set. In the sense, if you have a good friend, likelihood is they are seen as reliable by you that if you were in a time of need, they can be there for you. When someone suddenly drops off with no explanation, it can bring about feelings of abandonment and neglect since we do not expect that. So long as said friend meets the expectations held for them, this helps continue the trust. Although I would argue that perhaps this is a variable factor in its importance of trust depending on the individual.

2) Your impression of that person. You think you know that person, so therefore they are a relatively known quantity and thus you can make the judgement of whether you can place trust in them or not depending on the scenario. However, and this is the bit I don’t understand, people are never a fixed quantity. We are constantly changing, adapting, learning and we continuously have to learn new things about ourselves. So how is it that we view the people in our lives as set personalities?

In response to the second point, I think partly we have to operate on this level to be able to conduct our own lives with us in the centre, we cannot try to learn and understand down to the smallest detail all the people around us. Time is limited and therefore we build “profiles” of what we know about people in order to understand where we sit (and thus what the options are) and how to move forward.

But humans are a perfect example of a paradox in so many ways. Particularly, for the purpose of this essay, in the way that we crave change but at the same time hate change and crave routine and/or stability. The modern society churns out people who are eager to go to school, go to university (optional but preferable), find a job in a career, find a partner at some point, settle down and start a family. And yet, as mentioned above people are ever-changing so how can this restrictive template fit all people? Perhaps that’s why it’s a cliche that people go through some sort of crisis anywhere between 20-60 or perhaps even later (because we all know that cliches have some element of truths). We are conditioned from such a young age that there are constants in your life – or near enough. And this helps creates feelings of being connected, purpose and security. And yet, those of us with curiosity and the courage to explore, will not be satisfied by just those. If those three aspects were the only things we ever craved then no-one would ever move away or travel.
As I write this, I realise I am wholly speaking for me and possibly other people who might think along similar lines to me. I am aware that there are masses of people who are born, grow up, live and die in the same town – knowing the same people, same routines their whole lives. Each to their own but I don’t personally understand that. Side note – how much does it count as philosophy if the conclusions you draw are very much biased to only you? Hmmm….

Another implication of the thinking you know someone (because you think of them based on your prior knowledge and experience of them), is that your library of knowledge is limited by being built from historical interactions. Since we do not spend 24 hours of everyday with anyone, not even our partners, how is it that we feel like we know someone? How much do we fill in the gaps with our imaginations? And is it even possible to know someone? (That one’s a real con in the relationship debate)

The last paragraph was driven by me having just re-watched Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (great but very sad movie) in which there is a point that is made that you can continue to learn about someone even if they have expired. Just for context. But it’s a very real question that circles in my mind. Any opinions are welcome.

I don’t really make New Years Resolutions because as a true realist, I know new habits do not take unless you build them into your routine. But for 2019 and onwards, I do aim to try and adopt the perspective that people are less of a permanent quantity. For some who may read this piece, it might sound not that big of a deal, for me as I am it is.

Happy New Year and Good Luck to all in 2019

Saying Goodbye

I’ve never found it easy to let go of things. I think that’s probably why I usually default to cutting people off when relationships end. It’s hard to go from being romantically involved with someone to being friends without having been that in the first place.

I miss you. It’s frustrating how much I do but I know I need to give myself time. I don’t want to ruin all the memories that I have in order to move on when it was the relationship I’ve treasured the most. I want to respect the fact that despite the low I’m in now because of it, I also had a high I never had before. Even though in my mind it ended when it shouldn’t have, it doesn’t change what was.

You said you loved me but weren’t in love with me, and I absent-mindedly wonder whether you truly understand what it means to be in love and in a relationship. One day you may meet someone you grow to feel more for than me, you also may not. I accept that but it no longer matters to me. I know what our relationship and you were to me and that’s all matter to me now.

And whilst there were plenty of things about me you deemed “not right” for you, that also works in reverse. You scorned at the fact that I have a city background, to me you couldn’t even begin to fathom half of the situations that I deal with day to day living and working in London. I grew up in a countryside town, city life has only been applicable in my working life – it certainly doesn’t define me. But whilst I don’t envisage my future being city based, I do greatly enjoy the things they offer. Sometimes just as much as I enjoy being outdoors and going on adventures in isolated places. I like to adapt and I want to do it all. You certainly didn’t fit in all that – although I fully accepted this. I guess what I’m trying to say is, in some ways I’m glad I no longer have to limit myself in order to make our relationship work. We would’ve certainly widened each others horizons to say the least. For someone who likes to think of himself as open minded and self-aware, you are hypocritically small minded – your obstinance in leading the life you planned out for yourself blinds and limits you.

I do hope you are well and I have every faith you will execute everything you have in your plan. Thanks for the memories and I hope you find what you think you’ll find.

Walking Away From It All

I’ve always had to restrain myself in relationships – they always remarked that I was too intense.

They never got me. I could explain and express myself as plainly as I could but they never really understood what I was saying.

I always felt alone in some way. Even when I was physically with them. That was us too by the end, because you pulled yourself away.

None of them, bar one, could entertain the conversations that I craved. The philosophical questions about consciousness and self-awareness.

I quickly outgrew all of them, leaving them behind because of some way that I felt they were immature.

Until I met you.

One day someone will listen to me talk about you and when I’m finally finished, they will ask “so why did you love him?” and I will answer “Because I got to see who he was and I just loved him.” Simple as that. And it will be the truth. But it wasn’t enough. I finally met someone who I didn’t have to restrain myself with, who could challenge my thinking, who I could explain myself to and understood why I meant what I said. But he was too young to see what I could see.

You hate being called a boy, because you think to use the phase “boy” or “girl” is disrespectful. (I don’t agree, I think they’re purely cultural but you were never really open to listen to me on this point). But I have to say, by the end of our relationship all you proved to me was how much of a boy you still were, how sheltered you had been, and how blind you were. If you ever find someone like me, never let her go. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else in the same breed as me, overly rational but still in touch with just enough emotions to be able to function. Especially to hear the things you say without over-reacting. There’s only so many times I can hear “whatever I’m looking for, you’re not it” without letting myself fall apart from the feeling like whatever that was left intact was being ripped to even smaller shreds (what even was that? You tell me I’m not it but then progress in the same piece of prose to tell me that you could see that our future if we were physically together right now would be incredible?? What a load of garbled mess. You have a lot of thinking and growing up to do).

No I don’t see our relationship in that movie because the guy asks the girl back near the end – although I find it interesting that’s the part you picked up on and reacted so strongly to. I relate to and aspire to be like the heroine who finds her independence even though she deeply loved and shared a unique connection with the boyfriend who abandons her. Does that seem somewhat familiar?

I will continue to cry about us for a long time. You may have to live with your decisions (and it was more or less wholly your decision), but so do I. For me, I can take some small solace in the fact what you think and decide is outside my realm of control, but I still have to live with your decision to starve our future out of possibility. I can see there may come a day when you regret this decision. Or you may not; again this is completely out of my domain of control. I will move on from this with acceptance that I did all I could, I loved fiercely, proudly and without restraint. It was beautiful and it hurt like hell like I’ve never known – deeper than I could’ve imagine. I’m not sure I would do it again but I’m proud for the fact I did.

You were surprised by my breaking up with you the morning before I left (know that I chose to only because I could see that you had exited the relationship already and my integrity refused to let me continue). You were also hurt when I told you that even if you asked for me back, I’d say no. This highlights your immaturity, you’re not used to someone who might actually stand up for themselves. And there are plenty of people who wouldn’t, who would stay and stick it out rather than choose being alone and facing the unknown. But just as what you choose and feel isn’t within my control, nor am I in yours. You may think I’m predictable but you underestimate me. You tell me that I’m so much more emotionally advanced or that I’m incredible in communication or whatever, but you don’t actually believe it. I see it in your actions. You try and paint yourself as this anti to the male ego, that you’re so much better than that. But at the end of the day, what you did was no better than any of my exes. You have a high opinion of yourself for someone who lacks the self-awareness they claim that they have. This point, I really hope that you read one day and really reflect on. You are just as self-serving as any of them, which is ironic given how your aim in life is so community focused. On a wandering tangent, I wonder how selfless it can be counted if you orientate your life around giving back to the community if it’s to make you feel fulfilled. Get off your high chair, maybe then you can learn real self-awareness.

I am going to stop talking about you after this. Hopefully at some point in the near future I will stop thinking about you too. I took a chance and I gave it all I could. And it’s likely that I will never love anyone like I did you, but I don’t think loves like that are meant to happen multiple times in a lifetime and I’m making peace with that. If you had any sense, you’d fight, but you don’t and nor will you if you ever realise the gravity of this in future. Men in general are so scared of hurting themselves and their egos – no matter how hard you want to believe you are exempt from that, you are not.

Back into the Fray

A week back into working in the urban jungle that is London. Things feel different – I guess largely because I’m different.

One difficult thing that I’m still coming to grasp is my hunger to do everything. When I’m out backpacking in the beautiful landscapes of SE Asia, I miss the mammoth menu of things to do, see and eat in London and cities. When I’m here, I miss the wilderness, the anything-goes attitudes and the pushing limits and horizons. I want it all; it’s incredibly hard to reconcile. I think it’s the main reason that I’ve never been able to specialise and focus on one thing. Because to focus on one thing means sacrificing the breadth of your experiences. This has always never been an appealing trade-off for me historically.

Being back has led to some interesting questions being asked internally. Do I want a focus? Is that why life feels lacking? If so, what is it? What is important to me? Money – I don’t need much. Success – completely subjective. I’m good at what I do, but reaching the top doesn’t appeal to me – it’s too egotistic to me. Family – don’t really want for one. Relationship – I’ve never met a person who can quite keep up. So what should I seek? When I think through all that I’ve done, I want to create a life where I feel the most alive, at peace – that makes me the most happy.

I don’t subscribe to the mass-prescribed modern life template. Be educated, go to uni, get a good job, find a partner, settle down, buy a house, have a family – in varying order but nevertheless the same milestones. Once you blow the template out of the water, then what? You get to decide what you want to do. 80 years of life where everything you choose to do is accountable to your decisions. And that’s terrifying – too much for some people. I still have trouble grappling with it but it makes the most sense to me.

Question everything. Why do you do the things you do?

Self Reflection

The future is so uncertain and at times frightening, I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know who I’ll “end up with”, I don’t know where I want to settle down and be. These thoughts would’ve been overwhelming and so heavy in weight a year ago, but days of recent times it’s not had the same influence.

To the person who I was this time last year, I know you’re in immense pain. The last couple of months and the months following will be the hardest and most heart-crushing pain you will have ever gone through. You will learn some truths that goes against some fundamental principles you held dear, but you will grow from it. Don’t try and hold tightly on who you were because that Louisa is dead and gone, all you can do is look forward. The new you is not worse or better but just is. You will be pushed to the furthest edge of the mortal cliff, you will come back having gained a better idea of where the drop-off is and make peace with it. All of this will be a trial by fire which will give you a new skin of cold, hard steel when you finally emerge – a process that is slow and not a quick transformation by any means. Well done on being you Louisa, I’m proud that you are still here and have made the last year what you have. Shit happens all the time. People will do awful things intentional or unknowingly, but do them they will nonetheless and that’s not within your control. You are the master of only your own actions.

One thing that I did learn about myself in the last year was the existence of my anxiety which has always accompanied me and been an obstacle in many situations. Living in London did not help things, being in such a high pressure city where there’s little love for strangers on the street, where there is little time to get from A to B it feeds anxiety and sometimes it would make me feel and act small. The new skin of cold steel has been priceless in gaining clarity on when this affects me and helps me challenge why it is I should feel small (to which the answer is always “no real reason”). It’s a big but subtle change. The best way of explaining this is to liken it to how Evie changes in V for Vendetta after V tortures to “free” her from her fears. I suppose when you’ve stared into the eyes of something so dark, nothing feels as bad anymore.

My lowest point last year was being unable to answer what my motivation was in life, what I wanted to do, what direction I was to have. When I rationally thought it through, I rationally saw that there was no point to my life. My life (as with all other lives, it is not special) is an accumulation of moments, relationships and knowledge learnt. But without feeling a reason (and I still don’t, this is not something I think I can change), nothing I do matters. It got to the point where I saw logic in ending my life – although I have to stress that I was not suicidal. There is a distinction, albeit nuanced, between feeling like you need to end your life and seeing the logic in ending life. Being the latter, it also allows me to carry on to see what the alternative is, because what else am I going to do otherwise? As dark and possibly twisted this post is, I wanted to be brutally honest about how I felt, what I continue to feel. I am still alive and actually doing really well. I have a new job and a new house lined up, I’m about to go visit my boyfriend in the US. I don’t need help, and I’m currently not seeking help. I feel perfectly in control and at peace with who I am at this moment in time and what happened. The purpose of writing this was to point out that no one needs to be happy 100% of the time. That’s not human. Dark thoughts happens in all of us, but they need to be conversed with. Why are you feeling the way you feel? Don’t try and shirk from it – the most unhealthy thing here is denial.

The event that threw me into the existential blender of the past year was atrocious. It is heinous, despicable and should never have to happen to anyone. But having spoken to people who have had similar if not worst tales to tell, and having had time to process, I’m glad it happened. I am who I am today because of it and what I did after. How much I learnt is something that I’m fiercely proud of which no one can take away from me.

How Far I’ve Come

I’ve now been back in London for two days. It’s been interesting to see the lack of change in the city contrasted against the changes I see within myself. I feel a different person and it’s made much more obvious being back in a familiar environment. Part of the changes are due to the travelling I’ve been on – I wonder whether if these will be long term, but there are also changes which I can imagine are due to what happened last summer.

Looking back on the person I was, it seems a lot of the stresses and anxieties I had came from the expectations and how tightly I was gripping on life. I no longer have the tension I had before and that in itself feels so different.

I was not in a good place before I went away so it’s kind of comforting to hear my close friends say that I seem happy and better when I stayed with them. But the pain still sits there and still hurts, I don’t think it will ever disappear and I’ve accepted it. Moving on isn’t necessarily to reach a place where things no longer hurt. This last year has taught me that it’s about making peace with what happened, fully accepting that it changes you as a person and having the courage to take the next step without letting it hinder you. It’s been a long, difficult process but ultimately I wouldn’t be the person I am today without everything that’s in my past. I have no insight on who I would be had things panned out differently and there’s very little use in wishing for things to have turned out otherwise. I love myself enough to not waste any time dwelling on that.