Social Media Mania

I spent most of my March alone. My friends had gone home and not a lot was happening in school so I stayed indoors a good number of days. When I am alone, my creativity soars. I get to come up with so many ideas and, therefore, I end up finding something interesting to keep me busy. On the other hand, I have a tendency to overthink a lot. Beating myself up becomes the new self-reflection.

March wasn’t any different. I kept myself busy by working on my new Instagram page, where I would post factoids of different countries around the world. I started with Africa, and I really enjoyed discovering the beauty of Africa. I was very consistent in this blog, posting once a week. I watched a number of French movies, read novels and tried out new recipes. Indeed, I was having a time of my life. However, I was my own harshest critic. I amplified my mistakes and therefore regretted a lot. I thought a lot about my friendships and wanted to do away with most of them. (I didn’t. I learnt that friendships, like any other relationships need a lot of work. I had to come to terms with the fact that neither of us is perfect, and that I needed to learn to put up with other people’s weaknesses because I also expect them to learn to put up with mine)

It is during that time that I realized I had fallen into the trap of doing things for the gram. I realized that there were certain activities I participated in not because I wanted to, but because I wanted people to see that I had participated in those activities. It also scared me to see how much of an open person I had become in regards to my socials. This was never the case two years before. It’s not like I was some celebrity, I told myself. People did not need to keep tabs with everything that was going on in my life. I wanted to be low-key.

I went on a rampage archiving all my photos on Instagram and changing privacy to ‘only-me’ on Facebook. Then after three days, as is expected of me, I reversed that. Anyone who knows me well knows that my decision-making process involves see-sawing between two extremes before finding a middle ground. The first extreme, as you’ve seen, didn’t last long. I began walking on this tightrope called “my social media, my rules”, also known as, “I will post what I want and if it upsets you, you have the option of blocking me.” But it’s a tightrope, and I am no skilled tightrope walker. I fell off.

I decided to put a cap on social media in April (the cap would later be removed in May, lol). I would not update people on what I was up to. It was different for me, but I needed that break. I took selfies and because no one on social media would have the chance to validate me, I did that myself. I went to places because I genuinely wanted to. It also felt great keeping certain things under wraps. They seemed more special.

I went back to posting in May, only that this time, it was different. I made sure I did what I really wanted and what I genuinely enjoy, and then I would later decide whether or not I would post. Even now, I make sure that the intentions behind each post are pure.

To what extent should one share their lives on social media? That is the million dollar question. The long search for the answer was put to end by my aunt one afternoon, as I was undoing her hair.

“I believe that being open or low-key on social media is largely dependent on one’s character and personality.”

That was a eureka moment for me. I remembered the countless times I’ve failed at being very low-key. I am the kind of person who enjoys sharing a lot: happy moments, what I’ve learnt, my failures, vulnerabilities, you name it. I embraced that that day. I know of people who are uncomfortable with sharing bits of their lives with others – that’s okay too!

All in all, we should make sure that our intentions are always pure, and that we are wise about our social media activities. Also, did you know that being upset over what someone else has posted could perhaps be a heart issue, not necessarily their problem? Examine your hearts, loves.

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Soft and Pink Inside

I barely ever speak about matters of the heart in my blog. And if I do, I hide behind my other blog (Unebelle’s Musings) and either grossly misrepresent some facts or avoid writing about them altogether because I have to tailor the story to fit Unebelle’s character. However, I plan to do away with that blog because I have skipped over the thin line between fiction and reality many a times. It has also become increasingly difficult to seperate Unebelle from me, the writer. And since I’m on a journey of embracing vulnerability, why not talk about everything on here?

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you how indifferent I am towards relationships. You would find me randomly muttering, “Love is stupid!” amidst bites of food.

“Apart from destroying each other, what else happens in relationships these days?” I’d go on to wax poetic about why we shouldn’t date right now, yada yada…

For a big chunk of my life, I always shunned everything of the romance genre. I never listened to love songs, wouldn’t be caught dead watching soap operas and romance movies or reading romance books. This was partly due to how I was raised and mostly due to the fact that I found the notion of absolute devotion to someone else quite absurd.

Who hurt you? In all honesty, no one. There was a point in my life where I had a romanticized view of relationships but all that went down the drain the moment I tried out dating. Not that the relationship was particularly bad, but I became aware of the insane amount of work it takes to keep a relationship going and I wasn’t ready for that.

The thing is, I am scared. I am scared of losing my individuality. I’ve seen it in some, the way their passions and goals fade away and everything becomes all about their significant other. I don’t think that is healthy. I am scared that I won’t be able to do all that I do right now because I’ll be forced to set aside time for my SO. I am afraid that I won’t be as creative, that ideas will stop buzzing in my head because I’ll be preoccupied with my bébé.

At the end of the day, I am simply human. I am not incapable of being attracted to someone. Yes, a crush was sent my way to remind me of that. He is not ordinarily the kind of person I’d go out with but my heart doesn’t care. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a big crush on anyone else. My friend is having a field day teasing me about it.

It’s so bad, the way I lose control of my reasoning every time I see him. At the same time, it is beautiful I daresay. Blood rushes to my cheeks and there is a certain warmth I can’t explain. There is a light that has been ignited somewhere, shining on dark areas of my life. Conversations with him leave a permanent smile on my face. Wait, look at me being poetic.

See what I am scared of? I have been told before that just because I like someone and they like me back doesn’t mean we should date. There are several other factors that come into play. However, it’s like crushing on someone blinds you to the other factors you should consider.

Let’s see how this thing goes… Truly, everyone is soft and pink inside. 😉

Hey, Tiffany’s Here

I came across a video sometime back of Liza Koshy, a YouTuber, where she talks about her mental health. She says that a friend of hers opened up about his OCD, prompting her to bare her soul to him with regard to her social anxiety. This made them connect even more.

“Now we actually have a code name whenever I’m feeling anxious or whenever he’s having his thoughts. It’s called Tiffany, it’s just like, “Hey, Tiffany’s here, she’s freaking here man.” It feels good to be able to label something and put it away in your brain rather than let it become your entire brain in itself.”

That video reminded me of how easy it is to be defined by our mental illnesses. This is is mainly due to the fact that the brain is arguably the most important organ in the body. It plays a role in almost every system in our bodies including organizing and interpreting sensory information, coordinating visual and verbal memory, coordinating movement of our limbs, regulating body temperature just to name a few. When we have an illness that affects our brain, it’s not surprising that we tend to think that there is a fundamental flaw in our being. This is because our brain is basically everything to us. But are we our brains?

John Green’s ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ really opened my eyes to what people with mental illnesses go through. The main character, Aza, suffers from OCD which means that it is incredibly difficult for her to control her thoughts. She has re-occurring thoughts which she refers to as thought spirals. “The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”

She also says, “But the scary thing is not turning and turning in the gyre, it’s turning and turning in the tightening gyre. It’s getting sucked in a whirlpool that shrinks and shrinks your world until you’re just spinning without moving, stuck inside a prison cell that is exactly the size of you, until eventually you realize that you’re not actually in a prison cell, you are the prison cell.”

Her thought spirals grated me unendingly. I remember reading the book in a bus and I was so engrossed in it that I forgot to alight at my stop. I was thinking of how hard it must be for those who have OCD. That book built my empathy. After reading it, I didn’t ever want to hear anyone say that they are OCD just because they happen to be clean/neat freaks.

Taking medicine for her condition often conflicted Aza. “There is something intensely weird and upsetting about the notion that you can only become yourself by ingesting a medication that changes yourself.”

I used to think that we are our minds until I read Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’. He made me realize that we give the brain more credit than it deserves. We never say that we circulate blood because the process just naturally occurs. Why then do we say that we think when thoughts just naturally occur to our brain? C.S. Lewis puts it even better when he says that thoughts are accidental by-products of the brain. That’s why sometimes you may find completely horrendous and utterly disgusting thoughts occurring to you making you you act quickly to push them away while wondering how in the world you are able to think of such things.

That is why I believe that we are not our brains and that mental illnesses do not define us any more than physical illnesses do. When you’ve broken your arm, you never let that make you feel like everything is wrong with you because you know very well that you are much more than that arm. Of course you’ll feel bad, and the broken arm may help identify you when you are in a group of people but it ends there. You don’t let it define you. It’s just a physical condition. In the same way, being mentally ill does not mean that there is a fundamental flaw in your whole being. It’s just an illness. Period. You can choose to give it a name just like Liza Koshy did so that you are consistently reminded that you are not your mental illness.

“But what I want to know is, is there a you independent of circumstances? Is there a way-down-deep me who is an actual, real person, the same person if she has money or not, the same person if she has a boyfriend or not, the same if she has a boyfriend or not, the same if she goes to this school or that school? Or am I only a set of circumstances?” – Aza (Turtles All The Way Down, JOHN GREEN)

Yes there is. There is a you independent of circumstances. 🙂

There Is A Way To Be Good Again

Dear W,

“My candle burns at both ends;

it will not last the night

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–

It gives such a lovely light!”
– EDNA ST VINCENT MILLAY, “First Fig,” A Few Figs from Thistles
I found this poem in a book we’ve both read (I’m pretty sure you highlighted that part of the book) and I find it hard to explain the spiritual impact it had on me. I do agree with John Green when he says that our favourite quotations reveal more about us than the authors who wrote them.
Many a times this year, I felt as if my candle was burning at both ends. Each time I kept stooping lower and lower to depths I never thought I would reach. The wick of values that I held on to so dearly kept burning and burning until it was no more. What was left was only a mass of wax, useless and easily disposable.
Only that it wasn’t disposed off. Only that I got me a new wick. Only that I looked back at the bright light my candle gave while burning at both ends and realized that it revealed so many good things about me that were previously shrouded in darkness.
This is my story of redemption. I hope it is the same for you.
There is a way to be good again. (The Kite Runner)
That’s all I have for you today. 🙂
With love,
Lilian.
Dear Lilian,
“There is a way to be good again,” so says Khaled Hosseini. This quote gives me hope. However, I think that seeking for that way may sometimes bring more harm than good if you are too guilt-ridden.
I’m trying hard to come up with a good example but this is the only one that is on my mind, don’t judge: you are extremely rude to a guy and then afterwards you feel too guilty. You ask him what you can do to make it up to him and he tells you to go for a sleepover. Because you really want to redeem yourself… you get what I’m trying to say. In bigger decisions, if there exists something of that sort, our better judgement could be clouded by this bastard called guilt.
What say you?
W.
Hey W,
I just woke up a few hours ago and I’m down with a cold so forgive this mail might not be as well-put-together as the last one. I also haven’t eaten anything today soo…
Anyway, you know being good doesn’t mean making everyone happy? But I get where you come from. Guilt can lead us to do many crazy things in order to redeem ourselves. Actually come to think of it, the Kite Runner quote can be destructive depending on how you look at it.
It is destructive when you let the one you hurt have the power to dictate what you have to do in order for you to be good again in their eyes. They may make you do worse things in order for you to earn their forgiveness, which you might, but what will happen to you? You will go further and further down the path of guilt.
‘There is a way to be good again’ fills me with so much hope. That no matter how far you’ve strayed, you can always come back home. That you can always forgive yourself and cease giving people the power to dictate what you feel. That you can simply tell the ones you’ve hurt that you are truly sorry, without having to ask them what you should do in order to be good again in their eyes. If they don’t accept you back, that is fine. It is up to them now.
|Hotel stationary
Pour your heart out
Your life, your story
Write it down
You gotta write it down
The tear-stained pages
Going up in flames
When the smoke hits the ceiling
Will the memories fade?
Say farewell
To all of your mistakes
Forgive yourself
It’s a brand new day|
Brooke Barretsmith (Farewell)
With love,
Lilian.

Negative Side of Positivity

I was appalled when I found out that there are people who say they are strong to mean that they are sick. Even if they are bedridden and severely debilitated and you ask them how they are doing, they will tell you of how strong and healthy they are and how they have never been better. Apparently that’s a proclamation of faith, because Joel 3:10 (NIV) says: “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.'”

My bad. I was trying too hard not to make any reference to Christianity but I already have. For most of us who grew up/are Christians, we know too well how hard the philosophy of positivity has been drilled into us. We are all aware of the many uplifting verses in the Bible like Romans 28:8: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose and Philippians 4:4: Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. There is nothing wrong with these verses, however, our way of interpreting them might have caused more harm than good, specifically in these two instances: 1. When we take them to mean that we should be in denial of our present sufferings and 2. When we carelessly pelt them at people who are going through difficult times.

I know, I know, kinda confusing. Allow me to clarify further. I for one know that I was pretty good at keeping grudges at some point in my life. For instance, in my first year of high school, I was hurt by some people whom I considered friends and I grew resentful towards them. However, I never acknowledged the hurt. I never allowed myself to feel sad because well, we are supposed to forgive others, right? I somehow thought that my skin was a trampoline, people’s offenses just bounced off it effortlessly. I was so wrong. The pain penetrated and grew into a huge monster that devoured me from the inside. This is what happens when you don’t acknowledge your present difficult situation. It is perfectly okay to feel sad sometimes. You are allowed to be angry. You are allowed to cry.

The second instance is interesting because we always have good intentions when we send encouraging verses and positive quotes to people who are in hard times. We think that the words will magically save them from drowning. Sorry to rain on your parade, but most of the times they do the very opposite. You can come off as very insensitive. Imagine you’ve lost a job and on calling your friend, they slap you with “all things work together for good” or “when God closes a door He opens a window”. How would you feel? You would think that they don’t give a flying fig about you. If you want to show that you really care, empathize with your friends. Keep your motivation to yourself for a minute and listen to them.

Okay, so now what do we do? Do we remain sad forever just because our feelings are justified? Do we let our friends sink deeper into despair? I was quite bothered by these questions till Lilly Singh came to my rescue. Here’s what she says in her book ‘How To Be a Bawse’:

“Do I believe you should have fewer emotions when dealing with personal struggles? Well, yes… and no. No, because emotions need to be felt and it’s not healthy to bottle up pain. I believe in crying your eyes out instead of having pent up anger. But I’d also argue that, yes, having TOO many emotions can blind us to the life lessons we could be learning when things fall apart.

Basically, I believe in getting hurt efficiently.

This means that I thoroughly believe in crying, yelling, pulling my hair out, and experiencing heartache. BUT once I’m done I dissect the pain and learn lessons from it. Heartache is never going to go away and every person will continue to experience it. Not learning anything from pain because you are too overwhelmed with emotion is inefficient, especially since you’ll continue to encounter pain in life. When you get hurt, use that hurt as body armor for future battles. That doesn’t mean close yourself off and turn into an ice queen (or king); it simply means you should reason with yourself and try to remember that getting hurt today makes you more resilient tomorrow. Pain is good. Heartache is good. These things provide you with knowledge that will help you grow and deal with future struggles. To waste a painful moment and let emotion overwhelm you so much that you gain absolutely no insight is to get hurt inefficiently. Make every struggle count and remember that every experience will always be a silver lining.”

Have an introspective day, will you?

 

Politics of Fandoms

“I didn’t know you were a fan of Gabrielle Union!” exclaimed a friend of mine after seeing my Instagram post on her book.

“Yes I am, I really liked her book.”

“Since when have you been a fan of her?”

Here goes the Fandom Olympics, I thought to myself. See, your girl didn’t even know of her existence before picking up the book. I just pulled a Pudge (a character in John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’ who enjoyed reading biographies of writers without feeling the need to read the writers’ work). My friend, on the other hand, had known her for a really long time. Compared to her, I didn’t even qualify to be a fan.

Members of the Harry Potter fandom are usually referred to as Potterheads. I don’t even know whether I am part of them because I only read the books and watched the movies last year. There are usually in-fightings among the Potterheads because those who grew up reading Harry Potter usually think of themselves as greater fans and refer to themselves as the Harry Potter generation. Those who watched the movies but did not read the books are seen to be lesser fans. It’s like everyone is clamouring for the ‘biggest fan’ badge and you, my dear, can’t even qualify to be part of the race. I must admit though that I have oftentimes thought of myself as the bigger fan when it comes to bands and musicians that I grew up listening to.

I never knew how seriously people took fandoms until I started watching Scorpion. By then, I had joined Tumblr and so I made sure I partook in most of the Scorpion ‘sub-cultures.’ Every Monday, people would talk about the show, analyze the characters, ship some of them (Waige for Walter and Paige, Toppy for Toby and Happy… haha) and hundreds of GIFs and memes would be posted. It amazed me how different people from all over the world could be brought together because they share a common interest.

However, I know how dangerous fandoms can be. There’s this Christian Hip Hop artist by the name KJ-52 who was always compared to Eminem, just like NF these days. He decided to write a song to Eminem asking him to come to Jesus and I don’t think he was prepared for the reaction. The song blew up and was generally well received by the Christian community. Well, Eminem’s fans would have none of it. They went as far as sending KJ-52 hate mail and death threats.

What do you think of fandoms? Which ones are you part of? I would love to know!

Of Paradoxes and Perceptions

An amoeba reproduces by a process known as binary fission, whereby it replicates its genetic material and then divides into two daughter cells which are identical to each other. In short, it clones itself. Is it still okay to refer to the parent cell as the parent cell, when a very big change has occurred within it? Or are the two daughter cells collectively the parent cell? It still doesn’t feel right. Together, they have double of what the original parent used to have. So… did the parent cell essentially disappear? How? Nothing vanished into thin air. Is this just an issue of semantics? No?

Oh how exhausting mental press-ups are! You may now rest a bit. Why am I even talking about amoebas in the first place? Well, my current read is: A Brief History of The Paradox: Philosophy and the Labyrinths of the Mind by Roy Sorensen and boy does it give you tough mental exercises! I must admit, however, that I enjoy tossing myself into the abyss that is existential crisis every so often and philosophy in general gives me life! I love being exposed to different perceptions and schools of thought. It really helps me interrogate the flaws in my thought processes. It has also helped me understand that not everyone perceives things the way I do, therefore, I cut them more slack.

I got the amoeba paradox from the book by the way. They also talk about roses. That bouquet of roses you will receive on Valentine’s, are they really roses? What is a rose anyway? The flower or the whole plant plus the roots? If you say that the flower is a rose, what about the stem, the thorns and the roots? Light bulb moment alert! One day I will give a loved one stems and thorns of a rose plant and be like, “Hey, I brought you roses!” MWAHAHAHAHAHA…

My attempts at singing when I’m at home are always met with ‘sauti ya chura production’ from my siblings. They say it so often that I have considered it as a name of my production company when I launch my rap career. (A girl can dream!) It will host people with voices hoarser than Future’s without autotune and our tagline will be: listen to the words ignore the voice. What was I saying? Oh yes, my voice is not that good. I used to wish it was angelic, but not anymore. See, if you have an amazing voice, you don’t use it to entertain yourself. We are the ones who benefit from your voice. My friend (who has an equally bad voice) and I usually tell ourselves that we are queens and that singers slave away to make sure we are thoroughly entertained. We are King Saul, while the singers are David. The same friend tells me that writers are her slaves, that we only exert ourselves so that she and other readers may benefit. People really love comforting themselves.

Now that we have already touched on perceptions, let me tell you about the other day when someone asked where I’d be spending New Year’s Eve. I told him I’d be at home and he laughed. Excuse me? Who said I need an occasion to go out? Matter of fact I celebrated my birthday, which is on 8th October, on NYE. I told another friend that I don’t get the hype of New Year celebrations because methinks that time is an illusion and that the calendar is just for the sake of order. He agreed, but added that New Year is an excuse to party and that we all need an excuse. Right there and then it hit me how birthdays too are an excuse to party. A birthday is no achievement, and as someone on Quora pointed out, we are literally celebrating being a year closer to the grave. Chills.

Don’t get me wrong, birthdays are very important to me especially because of the lengths we take to show love to our friends and family and to show them how special they are to us. I love the feelings of hope and desire to make our lives better that come with each new year. I just don’t want them to be limited to a day. You can have make goals whenever you want, you can buy your friends gifts any day and most importantly, you don’t need to wait for your birthday to have cake. 😉

The beauty of the paradoxes of life can only be seen when you agree to see life through other lenses. Ditch your rose-coloured glasses and invest in other ones.

Have a paradoxical week, won’t you?