Category Archives: Average Advice

I’ve outgrown you

Image: qi bin

When I was 20 I thought I had fallen in love with a boy. He had sharp cheekbones and expressive eyes and I wrote him countless poems, trying to somehow show how I felt. I think he wrote me one back – a strange, sad sonnet, stuffed into the back of a blog that I stumbled upon months after our demise. It described me as “subversive”.

I think that’s the best way anyone has ever described me.

Subversive. Insurgent. Renegade. Agitator.

Like I somehow managed to revolutionise his entire outlook on life.

I don’t think he meant it like that at all, but I’ll take what I get from the lovers who’ve lost me.

When he left it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I can still remember clutching my heart on the train home, sobbing over how unfair everything seemed to be. It was all so raw, so painful, so desperately sad. I think I described myself as a “rubbed raw, icy footed, miscommunicated mess”. I think I described him as “right and good and lovely”.

I think everything was a little too dramatic to be honest.

3 years later, I am completely healed from my brief cosmic dalliance, this dance with desire and despair, and sobbing his name repeatedly on public transport. I found myself a million miles away from the person I was on that train platform, light-years ahead of the me who considered that boy to be the best thing that had ever happened – because better, more exciting, kinder things have happened since. I found myself in a bar belting Wheatus and having my hair lightly ruffled by a mutual friend. He grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes and told me that he thinks I’ve outgrown the person who made me feel all those things.

Do you hear that? I’ve outgrown him.

That’s so wild. I used to be convinced that I never would, that I’d stay stuck on that train platform forever, that I’d be devastated and miserable without that little patch of sunlight shining on my life.

But I breathed through it all. I breathed and I lived a little bit more each day and I discovered my own resilience in the midst of my disappointment. Then eventually I stopped telling myself to breathe, I just did. I stopped choosing him and chose myself instead. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Like I should have been choosing myself from the start, I should have remembered the golden rule of “I am number 1 and everyone else must fall in line behind me”. I think when you’re young and someone kisses your palms like they hold entire galaxies, you start to believe that the universe can only exist within you if they keep telling you it does. Turns out the cosmos have been lying dormant in my chest this entire time, waiting for me to acknowledge their perennial existence regardless of whether or not that other person reminded me of them.

In two weeks time none of this is going to matter. You are going to be breathing despite your doubt, you are going to find everything a little easier. Your patch of sunlight is going to expand with each dust-mote and beam that finds its way onto your bedroom floor, you’re going to be okay.

Just keep loving yourself, and loving the people who ruffle your hair and tell you you’ve grown. Just keep filling yourself up with good human connection, and trust whatever process you believe is out there, because there is one.

You’ll be okay, there are asteroid belts wrapped around your lungs and super novas in your soul. You’ll be okay.

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“Setting fire to our insides for fun”

Image: Kinga Chichewicz

Hi,

I’m back…for now I guess. We can’t say how long this is going to last because I’m really bad with commitment. The only thing I’ve ever properly committed to has been a 1 and a half year relationship that ended about a month ago, so hey, there’s your answer.

That’s also roughly the same amount of time in which this blog has been briefly abandoned. Weird. I think it’s because I’m not very good at writing when I’m feeling happy.

My mother actually asked me last night why I only write when I’m sad, my answer was simply that happiness is not an interesting enough emotion to comment on. Think about it. When I’m happy I wake up early and stretch and greet the hobos milling outside my window like I’m Snow White and they’re the little forest animals. I skip out of my flat and down the road and I fist bump car guards and breathe deeply and stare up at the blue sky and grin widely into the universe.

And it’s all very boring.

The real shit. The interesting, mind-bending, gut-wrenching, soul-searching shit, is when it’s 2am and “Daughter” has been playing on a loop since midnight and everything feels a little too real, too uncertain, too wild. And when the dawn arrives there’s a certain victory in surviving that shitstorm of emotion and adjectives. That’s how Plath wrote “Daddy”, and Eliot wrote “The Wasteland” and Spike Milligan wrote “On the Ning Nang Nong”.

Don’t try to tell me Spike Milligan wasn’t deeply emotional when he wrote the line “And the teapots jibber jabber joo”, I will fight you.

Anyway, I wrote something at 2am the other day and it was moderately good. So here it is:

Hey, I know you’re tired, and scared. Life is awfully fresh and raw and uncertain right now. You’re not too sure where you fit. Here’s the thing…in a few years time you will be a little less immortal. You will be sitting on new sheets in a bigger bed, with more money in your savings account and more stability in your heart, and you are going to miss this moment.

You are going to have more of your shit figured out and you are going to wonder why you didn’t cherish being 23 a bit more. There’s so much youth still on your side. The world is beckoning you with its fingertips and all you have to do is leap.

You are going to miss being this young, this unsure, this devastated, this inspired.

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You are so much more than this.

flower

Source: weheartit.com

Friendships are complicated webs. Two people decide they like each other slightly more than they like other people and therefore they entangle their lives in joint memories, shared secrets and a blur of complimentary character traits. As soon as the web is spun, glistening and dewy in the morning light, it’s difficult for it to unravel without someone getting trapped in the chaos of cut strings and unpleasant emotions.

Relationships are slightly trickier. They are more fragile, require more maintenance. Relationships, at least the ones I’ve been in, are made of a more brittle kind of silk than friendship, they’re tenuous and devastating.

Both kinds of interaction are as disastrously beautiful as they are lovingly crushing. They represent the pleasure and pain of what it means to be truly human, I’ve been hurt by both.

The worst thing to deal with, besides for the fall out, is when friendship and relationship blend in a delicate and confusing emotional masterpiece. Especially when circumstances allow for only friendship to grow, where does the lust stop and the platonic begin?

Yesterday I had a leisurely post-lecture, pre-devastation chat with my friend Su. We discussed the positive traits we see in each other and how important they are to our lives, a bit of an uplifting tête-à-tête before exams crush our souls. She told me the one thing I willingly and selflessly give to people, is my time.

I’ve always understood that time for another person is the best thing to give them. I’ve never been the type of person to buy affection – I don’t demand attention with sad stories or gifts. I’m not exactly rolling in cash money. I could be eating 2-minute-noods out of a rusty tin can, or trying to diabolically take over the world with lab rats and soggy cheese rolls and I’d still take 10 minutes out of my day to remind the people I truly love that I am still a happy presence in their lives.

That’s the thing. That’s the snare in the web of friendship/ relationship/ weird hybrid of emotions, I give and I give and I give my time sometimes to people who don’t have a minute to reciprocate it.

That’s the hamartia of this whole thing. The fatal flaw in an otherwise devastating fuck up of fate. My love language is time and the people I waste it on don’t understand that they’re taking the most precious thing I can give them, for granted.

 

I tried to type out the story of why I’m writing this blog post, why I was angry crying at 7 o clock this morning, why it feels like a scalding ball of rage and disappointment has settled in my chest – but I still deeply care for the person this is about, regardless of the imbalance of energy we invest in each other, so I won’t.

I’ll leave it at this. I’ve waited months for a phone call, and the one I got wasn’t nearly as wonderful as I thought it would be. I did a happy dance in the middle of a crowded bar when I found out it was going to happen. I clutched my phone to my chest and beamed around the room whilst assuring the people I was with that I wasn’t getting in too deep, that we’re just friends, that my emotions were not dangling on the promise of a ringtone.

Then everyone around me got to see the heartbreaking plummet of my emotions from ecstatic to disappointed. There was no more happy jigs, my heart stopped clawing its way out of my chest, I stopped beaming and got angry. I’ve never been so angry at someone I care about so much. I never expected to be hurt by someone I put so much faith in.

Su sent me a message about it. She has a wonderful way with words and what she wrote to get me to stop crying made me weep like a small child. I’m talking big fat ugly tears, foetal position, howling.

Forgive her if it does the same to you.

You are so much.

Not too much, but so much.

You are light and rambunctiousness and serendipity with dashes of serenity. You are more than a horny slur at night when someone is too lazy to be decent any other time.

You are a muse. Worth more than dirty words in dark hours and worth more than just a thought.

You deserve the love of legions. And one man who has behaved so cruelly (it is cruel) does not deserve that honour. He doesn’t get to make you feel this way and then let you down so hard.

Darling, you’re more than this and even if he forgets, everyone else remembers. You need to remember that also.

I am so much. I give my time to the people I love. I would spare 10 minutes in the busiest of days if it meant I could add value to my favourite humans on this planet.

I have recieved an apology, it’s going to take time for me to sift through the carnage of the web I got caught in. I’m going to have to figure out how I expect people to treat me and the minutes I give them.

I am complex and caring and a light-stained street of emotions. I can’t afford to settle for less than I deserve.

Neither do any of you.

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Don’t You Dare Tell Me You’re Broken

explosion 1.jpg

Hello you bullet shell of a person,

You like listening to “Hand Me Down” by Matchbox Twenty  because you like to think it describes you. You poor, 2nd hand, misunderstood, emotional mess. It’s so fun playing the innocent bystander isn’t it?

Poor Harriet. You’re too much and not enough and everyone’s always leaving and you’ve put too much of your life into other people’s universes without thinking about the consequences. It’s easier to be someone else’s equation, someone else’s magnetic force, someone else’s someday than it is to be your own damn everything.

Poor you. You self-inflicted, broken human being. You like writing midnight drafts about how much of an idiot you are for loving people too much and not expecting anything back. You think demanding what you want will make people leave, you think if you stay light and breezy and happy that you’ll finally be the thing they pick first.

Poor you. You absolute idiot.

You’re not a fucking hand me down. You’re not a substitute person, you’re nobody’s second choice.

How can someone so voluminous and loud and flammable make themselves so small just to feel wanted?

Remember the nights you danced through the rain to smoky bars and tight embraces. You splashed through puddles and twirled down light-stained streets- don’t you dare tell me you’re broken. My darling, you watercolour palette of a human being, how dare you wait for someone else to make you feel worthwhile. Don’t you ever cry golden tears over cosmic promises-you are worth more than the tiny piece of infinity they have to offer you.

Remember how hot your words feel when they sit in your throat.

You

Can

Burn

Them

To

The

Ground.

Get explosive. You were born with a gun powder heart and dynamite thoughts.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’re a god damn super nova.

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Vulnerability is not how I was brought up.

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Source: weheartit.com

The one thing I’ve learnt in the past month or so is how easy it is to learn how to be happy.

It’s something I’ve always been weary of- showing emotion other than happiness, especially around people I’m not close with. Sadness is a weakness, crying is not likeable, showing vulnerability isn’t how I was brought up.

When I was 16 years old my first boyfriend ever decided to break up with me, I saw it coming- we were too young and too silly to carry on much longer. Before I went to go see him for the last time, the end of his affection darkening my sunny doorstep, my very independent, brilliant mother stared into my eyes and told me that under no circumstances was this boy allowed to see me cry.

“You walk away Harriet, you keep your head up and you accept it with grace. Don’t you dare let him see you cry.”

I took her advice, I cried in the car- dented heart and bruised ego trailing behind me.

It was the start of an era- I remained steadfast and stoic until 18 when my heart was smashed into fragments by someone who didn’t deserve it and I went a little nuts. I cried into the phone, I begged him to reconsider his lack of affection, I stayed in bed for a week in a state of decline, I stopped eating. I tried to squeeze myself into every single mould he wanted me to fit into until I gave up and broke down the box he tried to keep me in.

Since then I take my mother’s advice. I cry when it’s necessary, when I can’t hold it in any longer. Sometimes I slip up and I’m forced to peel myself off the floor- I’ll scoop myself together bucket by bucket, piece by piece until I’m a little less misshapen. It’s a routine I have become adept at and the last time I left a piece of myself behind it’s because I gave it away freely, I desperately wanted him to hold it close and keep it safe.

Since the removal of this vital piece I’ve learnt how to cope. I get up in the morning, I read books that make me think and spend afternoons drinking coffee in soft shorts and messy buns.

Grasping happiness is easier in soft shorts and messy buns, grasping happiness is also easier when it’s dependent solely on myself.

I could cry into the phone, I could stop eating and get drunk and kiss strangers- trying to find some comfort in their empty sentences. But I think it would end in too many pieces of me being stolen by too many careless people.

I’ve learnt how to be happy. I’ve learnt how to tightly hold each delicate piece of me together, I’ve learnt how to be whole.

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January 14, 2016 · 7:28 pm

Kid, you gotta love yourself.

face

source: weheartit.com

I got to spend time with one of my favourite people this January which is significant as we’re currently averaging on seeing eachother every 700 days. The distance between Canada and South Africa is a bit awkward for visits to be more frequent, so we make do with the time we have.

We met on his 15th birthday, I was 14 and obsessed with side-fringes, converse sneakers and bright skinny jeans. I thought jumping off a golf cart would look super cool and ended up with a spectacular face plant to leave a lasting impression. He has therefore essentially seen me at my worst and most embarrassing- it’s been 6 years of tripping over my own feet, running head-first into fire places, acquiring various black eyes and dropping a number of objects he has chucked at me to realise that not a lot of people have seen the parts of me that he has.

When I was 17, I got to spend almost 2 weeks with him in Kenya. It was 10 days of constant exposure to the pros and cons of a particular human being. We both learned the colours of each other’s anger, we spent a full day in the hot sun after getting half an hour of sleep and by the end of it were bickering more than usual, we spoke about our respective futures like they weren’t right around the corner and some days when we ran out of topics of conversation, we’d sit in silence until the things we desperately wanted to say came bursting out of us.

We had such a moment this week. It was hot and we had stopped talking for a bit. He was lounging on the couch that I had my back pressed against and I was feeling rather conflicted about the emotions that were running rampant in my chest. He looked at me like he knew what I was thinking, I stared back, trying to figure out how to phrase my crazy.

“Do you think that someone can wake up one day and just stop missing you?”

He gave me a skeptical look, a constant calculation shooting off in his head, I’d told him about everything that’s happened and how I’m still trying to figure out where I fit, he knows me well enough to say the right things. So he leaned over and flicked the bottom of my chin before stretching back and uttering this resonating statement:

“You don’t need to be missed Harriet. You have to learn to be autonomously happy, regardless of whether you are missed. You can’t tear yourself apart being emotionally dependent on anyone.”

He knows me. God, he knows me. He knows how easily I leap into my emotions like they haven’t let me down before, he knows how I feel about effort, how desperately I cling to any hint of romanticism. It’s been 6 years and countless mistakes and so many letters home trying to figure out why I like my life to be filled with intensity- and the man summed up what I needed to hear in 3 succinct sentences.

I do not need to be missed.

I need to have autonomous happiness.

I can’t afford to tear myself apart.

I can’t afford to tear myself apart.

 

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Break-up Season and The Art of Being Perpetually Single.

Source: weheartit.com

It’s September and with it comes along one of my favourite seasons; no you over – enamoured festival girls with your flower crowns and misappropriated Native American headdresses, it is not Spring. It’s break up season.

Aaah, break up season. The undefined amount of time when couples decide they need to start making alternative arrangements for New Years. It’s either that or the pollen has some kind of effect on assholes revealing their true colours. Either way, in breakup season my status as the perpetually single, professional third wheel is promoted to veteran. I become the newly single girl’s independence guru and it’s my favourite thing.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- I have been cursed with experience. As my mother once aptly introduced me “this is Harriet, she has the WORST taste in men”. Right you are Lori, and don’t I know it. A miriad of philanderers, future strippers, batshit rockstars and one rather questionable character armed with a pair of roller blades and a spiked collar have come my way; and, because I like a good story, because I appreciate it when my life takes a turn for the bizarre- I give them the time of day.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me pretty good at getting rid of weirdos. In my experience, there’s two ways break up season can happen to you;

1. You cry, you ugly cry. You end up looking like Kim K eating a salad, or just Kim K crying. You binge on something – be it food, cheap box wine or love quotes on pinterest, you fill your void with something other than that person. I voice note my friend Chris at ridiculous hours of the morning after watching Pride and Prejudice for the third time and sobbing because Mr Darcy is the perfect ratio of socially awkward to adorable. Chris is a real trooper. Hi Chris!

2. You get over it quickly. You never liked them that much anyway. I always get a drastic haircut after a breakup, one time all I got was my nails done. It’s all relative, it depends on whether you’ve acknowledged yet that you deserve more than locked doors and explosive words. It’s about whether or not you’ve given away so much of yourself already that no fucks can be given. That’s cool, your favourite kind of no should be no fucks!

Once you’ve reached this Land of NSource: weheartit.comope, it gets easier, it gets interesting. The Land of Nope is my favourite place in the entire world – it’s the land of tequila and nachos, incredulity and cynicism. All hail the Land of Nope!

One of my best friends is going through break up season. She’s acknowledged that a relationship isn’t worth it if the other person doesn’t make an effort to make her feel safe, or special. She’s figured out that although it’s nice to have someone to cover her eyes during a horror film, it feels even better to have the strength and sense of self – preservation to walk away from her own. I love her for it, I think she’s so brave. I acknowledge how terrifying being alone can be- you don’t want to go back to pub crawls and batting off club goblins. Being single sounds like the worst thing right now, but let me tell you kids something from your friendly neighbourhood future cat lady: being single lets you be selfish, and sometimes you need to be selfish to figure out who you are and what you want.

October marks a year since the last break up I was an active participant in. After being single for almost a year you figure out some things:

1. Sweatpants are my best friends. My other best friend regularly jokes about how when I go out I make an effort, yet when I come to campus then everyone is forced to deal with the wild beast that is my naked face and unbrushed hair. I don’t care, because sweatpants are my best friends and you can’t deny the kind of love they wrap you in at 3 o clock on a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by empty pizza boxes and watching Adventure Time. Sweatpants are love, sweatpants are life.

2. You don’t need a significant other to make you feel important. You don’t need someone tracing the outline of your lips every night to feel heard. There are people in your life who will still be able to tell how your feeling from a single flinch. Chris has my hangover routine memorised, he has no need for it, but it’s nice to know that when I order chicken chow mein and spring rolls from Kung fu kitchen and then lie in bed watching Archer for the rest of the day, that there’s someone on the other end of the phone just as concerned about my liver as I am.

3. Freedom is the gift that keeps on giving. Once your tear ducts dry up, once your chest feels a little lighter and you’ve reached the Land Nope and No Fucks, you will start to smell the sweet scent of liberation, my friend. Turn off your phone, go exploring for a few hours, spontaneously kiss a stranger – or don’t, because germs are a thing; whatever you do it can remain unjustified. You never have to explain a single thing to anyone ever- you are a sentient human being who deserves to be wild.

4. You learn to love yourself; and kid, you gotta learn. Every stretch – mark, every split end, every out of place freckle. You can’t lay the burden of self – appreciation on anyone else but you, and once you learn to stand by yourself, once you establish that you are strong enough to be able to walk away from any relationship at any time, you will understand why none of your previous love affairs worked.

Breakup season sucks, for everyone, even experienced wise sages like myself. But the journey to occasional loneliness is worth it, my god it’s worth it.

Bring on the tequila and the nachos. I feel a one – man movie marathon coming on.

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