I sit writing this at the desk in my new bedroom and relatively new house, looking out into our humble garden and the bright blue autumnal sky shining above. Life is hard, at the moment, but also very good. When I come to write on here it always feels a little daunting, like entering a confessional with yourself and knowing that people will hear whatever it is that may come out. I’ll be quite honest, I’ve barely written over the summer. All my energy was going into moving houses, saying goodbyes, attending graduations, family dramas, and most of all trying to get my own head screwed on straight again. To an extent I both failed and succeeded with this. I had some wonderful times away with friends in early June and got all my travelling done at the start of the season. I’ve lad long lapses of indulgence and feeling anxious and blue, but always find my way and an incentive to climb out of them and back into the sunlight- though I never know for how long.
I felt very lucky to have had friends spoil and love me when my birthday finally came, something that my family struggles to really do in the midst of their own universes now my father is gone. July felt like one long day of packing and painting white walls, of saying goodbye to the sweet girls I lived with last year and moving myself into an entirely new house in a different part of town. By far the best part of the summer was, however, the unadulterated luxury of having a house to myself for a month and a half. Once the initial anxiety and exhaustion of moving subsided and I’d unpacked my surprisingly large amount of nik naks and clothes, I suddenly realized I had room to breath. To be. To think with no eyes around me. My new bedroom is much larger than most I’ve had before, and the large windows let the light in through the day, always giving me something to look at as I sit and think in front of my now ancient laptop.
It was as though now my setting was right, I was able to start building myself again. I joined the Pilates studio around the corner (something I’d only ever seen beautiful american girls in films or my very glamorous older sister do), began eating well again and exercising (my propensity for sitting and feeding myself when blue is truly something to behold) and finally got a job at a family owned restaurant just around the corner. So far, so good. Whilst many people were away for the summer or had left permanently, my lovely friend who lives in Fratton was here to experience some of the fun of the summer with me before the year began again, and we christened the house cooking, watched Big Little Lies, celebrated my getting published in the paper together and spent a day rain soaked and laughing at the Victorious music festival. As though written in the early draft of a short story, in the midst of all these things slipping gently into place, he appeared. I’ve dabbled many times with dating Apps, never usually to much avail. The only way I can really explain it to someone who’s never tried finding a date through their phone is: imagine your standing in the middle of a bamboo forest absolutely stifled, with a slightly blunt machete in your hand. Through the thick leaves and criss-cross of trees you think you can see a glimmer of sunshine and a way out, but to do so you must hack, saw and be generally attacked by the undergrowth as you stagger your way through to the light. That’s tinder. You are positively surrounded with men, faces upon faces pop up on your screen, most not to your taste or not attractive, so you swipe left. You swipe left, left, left, left. This can go on for weeks. Then just as you are yet again about to throw the picture automatically off your screen, you stop. You see a face that charms you. He seems nice- maybe even attractive- you think (though you’ve obviously no idea). So you breath in, and make that monumental swipe to the right, the swipe of consent. You sir, may speak to me. Then there’s a pause- have they matched with you too? Have they not seen your profile yet? Have they, dare you even think it… thrown you on top of the pile of corpses to their left? And on it goes from there.
Sometimes they’ve liked you too but you never speak, sometimes they start the conversation and it simply never gets off the ground, sometimes you simply don’t fancy it after a while and they become belligerent and hurt (never a good sign from a stranger) or sometimes you simply never match (‘their loss’ you think with a slightly bruised ego, readjusting your under-eye mask and eating a few more quavers on the sofa). Then one day, lightning strikes. Magic happens. The clouds part. Someone attractive- nee- handsome, has liked you back, but not only that- they’ve started a conversation, not only THAT, they seem to be a genuinely interested, interesting and funny person.
You are immediately suspicious. Possible rapist, serial killer or pervert, you think whilst carrying on the friendly banter, as though you hadn’t a frightened or cagey thought in your head. As time goes on though, they dispel the majority of your fears with elegant words, quick humor and easy charm. You agree, unbelievably, to actually meet the person. In such a tricky, awkward and sometimes plain dangerous world of online dating, trusting your gut can feel at once to be the stupidest thing you could do, but also the sharpest tool at your disposal. You agree somewhere public and safe to meet and a time to do so, continuing to chat or occasionally rescheduling in the meantime. You begin to get quietly excited as the day approaches, but a tempered excitement. You know how badly this could go. At a minimum it could be awkward. At a maximum it could be excruciating. You put on your dress in spite of it all, wave your hair, make your face as pretty as you can and head out, toes, fingers and everything else crossed, keeping the quietest hope in the back of your mind that this could genuinely be a fun evening…
These evenings have been so diverse, awkward, painful, funny and intriguing in the past I’d learned to go in with an open, hopeful, but guarded mind. You make your way to the restaurant and wait, emergency call on stand by if you need to escape. As you distract yourself speaking to the staff or looking around the room, you finally see them. They appear as if out of the air. A being that up until that point had only ever existed on a two dimensional screen is now a living, breathing, smiling tower in front of you, and you smile back. I believe you can know from an initial instinct when you meet if you are going to experience a journey with a person, if they have a part to play in the theater of your life. I felt it then, and since then it’s been a blooming, twisting, laughing whirlwind of a ride, peppered with moments of pain or worry that it’s all too good to be true, that life isn’t meant to be this lovely, and that people aren’t ever truly this good. I refuse to let my mind think that way though, I read a quote once that said ‘my past is what I’ve been through, it’s not who I am. It has helped mold me, but it does not define me.’ and I believe that to be true. I’ve collected many scars by a relatively young age, both internal and external, and it can be a daunting prospect to have someone see them- but to act out of fear and run from a beautiful thing because you cannot be sure they will accept you would be letting the ghosts of pains past control your future. I’ve been reading a little philosophy of late and watching some lectures with some preeminent thinkers of today, and whilst they are not religious in nature, they have no issue in taking the best of the teachings in many faiths and directing their positive instruction and message into a secular life. A favorite of mine is a teaching of Buddha’s that goes ‘do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.’ Now, that is not an easy list to follow. But to live a happy, calm, productive and loving life, I think it may be well worth a try….