Tag Archives: University

Friends for Friendship, Not for Fear

7 Jun

For the past few weeks I have been surprisingly unsettled and it is only today that I found the most probable reason for this anxiety. Next week, three of my closest friends are coming to visit me in my new country, my new city and my new life. Amongst organising our long week-end, amongst looking forward to spending time with them and hearing their stories about the past four months, I am filled with fear.

What will they think of my new life? What will they think of the way I have changed? What will they think of my new views and my new reflections? What will they think of my new worries and my new problems?

I realised that my anxiety comes down to own fear: I am scared that my friends will not like my new life. Or, to put it straight, I am scared that my friends will not love the new me.

These are friends with whom I had my wildest days at university. These are the girls with whom I shared high heels and short dresses; they are the ones who curled my hair and did my make-up before a night out. With these girls I danced on tables and talked to too many strangers. These are the friends who would sit wide-eyed and open-mouthed while I told them about my week-end. These are the friends who are used to a girl whose every minute is filled with activity.

When they arrive next week, my friends will see a girl with barely any make-up on. They will hear a calm voice telling them about a life spent riding bikes, taking walks in parks, watching sunsets, picking wild flowers, going to local markets, taking photos of nature, writing in bed, reading on the balcony and imitating owls. They will find a girl that keeps to herself and is sometimes shy in social situations. They will find a girl that likes to share thoughts on life and death, friendship and love. They will find a girl that is the most confused, yet the most content she has ever been.

When I realised that the cause of my anxiety is a fear of rejection, I thought about how I could make the best of the week-end that I will spend with my friends, without letting insecurity ruin special moments. I immediately remembered a wonderful post I’d read about welcoming guests, and I realised that this is not a time for fear, but a time for love. These are precious days in which I can share my joy, laughter and positivity with people who mean the most to me. These are moments in which I should be giving and sharing, not taking. These are times when I am supposed to be being honest and open, and not trying to impress or Friends Hugging on Beachentertain. This is an opportunity to show my friends how much they mean to me, and not to expect proof of friendship from them.

Fear will most certainly always reside in my heart, but the best thing I can do is to respond with love. So I’ll stop fretting about the broken tiles in my bathroom and the ugly chest of drawers in the living room. I will stop worrying about not knowing the best restaurants or liveliest bars. I will forget about learning the city inside out or getting the best deals for days out. Instead, I will simply do my best to welcome my friends with open arms and give them my open heart.

Counting the Blessings, Not the Events in My Life

15 May

I had heard that time flies, but no-one had told me that it soars. The past year has gone by with the blink of an eye. For me, it has had little form and even less structure. What have I done during the past twelve months? What has happened in the last 365 days? Looking back, the past year looks like a stretch of time marked by uncertainty, emptiness and waiting. Things have moved at a slower pace than ever before, and there are few events that have been caught on camera or written into a diary. However, when I think about the past year, I realise for the first time that it is not the quantity of memorable events that matters so much as their quality. This year has brought few notable events, but they have had a crucial role in the direction of my life’s path.

1) I graduated from university.

2) I went on a life-changing trip to India.

3) I completed a novel-writing course, which made me realise that, despite my fears, that I am capable.

4) I was offered my first ‘real’ job in a field that I love.

5) I moved to a different country.

6) I moved in with my boyfriend.

However, when I look back at the past year, these events feature only as a backdrop to that which happened on centre stage. In fact, it is my spiritual experiences and changes that played the main role during this period of time.

1) I got rid of 50% of my material possessions. In my new home, I live only with the things that I use regularly.

2) I deleted my social networking accounts. If they’re my real friends, I should be able to call them to find out about their lives. If I feel uncomfortable about picking up the phone to speak to them, I don’t need to be filling my mind with their lives. Seven months without Facebook, and I feel calmer, more confident and I know who my true friends are.

3) I took a risk. When I started job-hunting last autumn, I knew that I had two choices: I could either persevere and look for jobs in the field that I love –writing – or I could take the easier option of going into a better paid, more stable and more ‘prestigious’ career. Parents considered The City or the EU as a good destination for me, but I knew that if I didn’t take the chance to try my luck in writing, I would never again have the opportunity to do so. Three months later, I was offered a job as an online content editor.

4) I made a dream come true. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of working in a cute little bookshop, where I would be able to pass on my love for literature to others. In the autumn, I was hired for a week-end shift at a new independent bookshop in my area. I only worked there for four months, but the experience was unforgettable. I was blessed with kind, knowledgeable and good-humoured colleagues, with friendly clients and with a brilliant stock of books to enjoy.

5) I chose love over fear.  What if I don’t like it? What if it doesn’t work out? What if he changes his mind? What if we get bored? A million doubts filling my mind before moving to a new country and moving in with my boyfriend. Four months after my move, this new life feels like second nature.

6) I was honest with myself. Young women my age are going to parties, filling their days with countless activities, following fashion, spending, seducing, networking…I tried, but never found fulfilment in any of these activities. I finally admitted to myself that I would prefer to spend Friday night watching the sunset from a hill, spend the afternoon riding a bike, spend evenings doing yoga, spend the week-ends doing photography, and spend my money on dance class, art exhibitions or fresh local food from the market. By being honest with myself, I have found a more natural way of life.

This year, I may not have had many events to talk about, but I have had many ideas and feelings to share. I think I am finally starting to learn how to count the blessings, and not the events in my life…

Climb the Tree, Get the Fruit

22 Apr

There are those people who sit under a tree waiting for the fruit to fall down, and there are those who climb the tree to get the fruit themselves. The former group is passive: these types of people expect life to give them everything they want without making an effort to get it themselves. The latter group is active: they do not wait for opportunities – they make them; they see possibility in everything.

I have known both types of people. I had an acquaintance who spent his days regretting giving up the guitar: he was one of the most talented students in his music school, but decided not to pursue a musical career and picked a more academic subject to study at university. His regret for giving up a musical path would send him into depression every time he watched someone play the guitar. However, despite his ‘grief’, he did nothing to get himself onto the musical path once again. He had several guitars at home – he would never practice; he had connections with many musicians – he did not ask them for gig or concert opportunities; he had perfect pitch and a great knowledge of music theory – he did not try to find students to teach. In short, he expected opportunity to fall into his lap from the sky; he wanted to wake up one day and be a successful guitarist without the effort that goes into it. The people who expect miracles without putting in any work believe that they are victims of an unjust fate. Spending time with these people leaves you tired and lacking in energy, you start to become blind to the beauty of life.

As for the second group, I have been lucky to know many people who make their own opportunities and create their own fate. One friend choreographed and taught a dance for our university dance show, whilst having almost ten essays to write during the same time period of time – she managed to do both brilliantly. Another friend applies (and gets selected) to do unique programmes abroad each summer: Israel and Zimbabwe are two of the places where she has done study and research projects. A friend from school took a year out of university to live in Columbia and perfect his Spanish; “I want to plan my life in my own way. I don’t want a university course system or anything else to tell me that I can’t take great opportunities to do things like this”, he said. Other friends have run marathons, written plays and cycled across Europe. These people are full of energy, full of hope and full of optimism. It is not their ‘achievements’ that inspire so much as their love for life. It is their belief that life is abundant, life has given them everything and that all they have to do is just make the most of it.

I myself have been both of these types: there are times when I jumped at every opportunity and made opportunities for myself. But there were also times when I lacked motivation and energy, when I wanted to change aspects of my life, but took no action to do so. Now, during moments like these, I always try to think about the active people that I know:they would get their asses up and do something to create change. It could be the smallest change, but it is still something that gets life into motion, that stirs the universe and turns the wheels of our destiny. Thinking of these people reminds me that I have absolutely no excuses not to be living the life of which I dream.

Whenever you are feeling unmotivated, lacking in energy or in hope, think about someone who has inspired you, be it a friend, an acquaintance or a famous individual. Remember that one must climb the tree to get the fruit; the height may be scary and the braches may scratch you along the way, but the view is so much better from the top.

Read What You Enjoy

9 Feb

“My time is precious; I don’t want to waste it reading books that I don’t enjoy”, said one lady at a book group recently. There was a mixed response from the group: some nodded their heads, others exclaimed that once they’ve started reading a book, they have to finish it, even if they’re not enjoying it. I had always been taught to plough through books until their end, because we’d always learn something from them, even if we don’t enjoy them. However, looking back on my literary past, it seems like enjoyment plays a huge part in a successful learning process.

I have recently had to compile a list of my favourite thirty books of all time. Considering the fact that almost all of the books that I have read in the past four years were compulsory university reading, only one or two of them made it onto the list. I was in disbelief when I could hardly even remember what, apart from those two favourites, we had read over the course of my degree. I realised that I had spent four years reading things that I didn’t particularly enjoy, simply because they were considered educational, or classics, or ‘what every intelligent person should have read’.

There’s no doubt about it – those four years did bring me a lot of knowledge…but my knowledge came through sweat, persistence and obligation. Unfortunately, it did not come from curiosity, interest and, most importantly, enjoyment. I thought about the amazing books that I read in the months after my graduation: those books that make you stay up into the night; those that make you late because you can’t bear to put them down; those that you can’t wait to finish, but at the same time don’t want to end; those into whose world you wish you could be transported. I realised how different my university education would have been had I been reading things that I enjoyed. Studying would have been a pleasure, not a chore. Lectures would have been enlightening, rather than tiring. Essay-writing would have been inspiring, rather than depressing. Had I enjoyed what I was doing, I would have naturally put in all my effort to do it brilliantly. Had I enjoyed what I was doing, I would have appreciated and made the most of every single moment, rather than simply seeing it as a means to an end and pushing myself on with the thought that ‘it will be worth it in the end’.

Although I realise that I have gained a lot from my education, I strongly believe that I could have gained even more had I actually enjoyed the literature that we were made to read. True, had I not been ‘forced’, I would never have got through the classics on my own. But on the other hand, out of all the classics that I have studied, there are only a few that I truly enjoyed and would consider rereading. On the other hand, most of the books that I have read for pleasure are books that have had the most impact on me, whether philosophically, creatively or emotionally.

Today I abandoned a book that is considered a modern classic, because my complete impartiality to what I was reading wasn’t bringing anything positive into my life. No matter what we’re doing, we’re more likely to get something positive out of it if we’re enjoying ourselves. So let’s make a bit of time each day to read something that we enjoy!

The Art of the Essential

13 Jan

“Are you rich?”
“I have everything. I no longer even have possessions.”
~ Malcolm de Chazal

A few months ago, I met a guy in Paris whose only possessions were the ones he could fit into his rucksack. Ever since reading L’Art de l’Essentiel (The Art of the Essential) by Dominique Loreau, I have been trying to achieve a similar sort of thing.

In her book, Loreau outlines the Feng Shui principles of space clearing that bring peace into our lives. Excess or unnecessary possessions can have a negative effect on our energy, slowing us down, making us depressed or lethargic, and eventually making our possessions become the owners of our lives.

Just before the new year, I managed to clear my shed of eleven years’ worth of junk. Clothes, books, films, music, jewellery, stationery, a bike (that I rode once, six years ago), roller blades, a tent (that I borrowed from someone five years ago), and other similar things. Friends came and took what they liked, and the rest went to charity. I followed Dominique Loreau’s basic principle: if you don’t need it or you don’t love it, let it go. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t experience any remarkable feelings of loss or regret when I parted with these things.

It was a different thing, however, when I started going through my university folders. Ninety-five percent of four years of work went into the recycling bin. Four years’ worth of lectures, homework, assignments, essays, notes, photocopies and research proved to no longer be of any worth to me. When I’d finished my first round of recycling I sat back in horror… “What was my education for if only months after finishing it, I am already throwing it away?!”. I remembered my endless battles with philosophy (one of my BA subjects) and how I thought about giving it up a few months into my first term at uni. But I didn’t, because I thought it would be ‘good for me’ in the long-run.

Sitting amongst all the philosophy papers that I was about to trash, I decided then and there never to do anything with the hope that it will be ‘good for’ or ‘useful to’ my future self. I realised that we can never guess what we will want or need in the future, so the best we can do is to make the most of the present – that way, our best possible future will unfold naturally. If we hold on to objects that we don’t use now, we ruin our present by being tied to things that have no relevance to the life we would actually like to lead. If we spend our time doing things we don’t enjoy, believing that they will be ‘useful’ for our future selves, we will end up losing opportunities to do the things we genuinely love.

Living with only the essential brings freedom and peace to our lives. We are defined by who we are and what we do, rather than by what we own. When we learn to effortlessly let go of material things, we find it easier to let go of situations, places and people.  Happiness does not lie in the things we own, but in the things we give.

 On the same topic: Art of the Essential Part IIArt of the Essential Part III