Predicting the future through fears of flying.

I leave for a holiday to New Zealand on Saturday morning. At approximately 5:00am, I will be dragging my backpack into Dad’s taxi. We will leave early, because the anxious look on my face tells my mother not to take anymore photos. The five of us will hit every red light on the way there, and my brothers will joyously make jokes about plane crashes until Dad tells them to find something else to talk about (he won’t use those words obviously, and there’ll be swearing involved).

When we get to the airport, as per family tradition I will get stopped going through security. Something about the Belfast accent is apparently red-flagged by security personnel. My bag will get checked, and there will be a joke about the amount of make up I’m taking backpacking. Finally waved along our way, Dad will be the lead – the airport was like his second home for a while. We’ll find a table at the coffee shop, and I’ll get bought a large, chai latte and drink only half of it before pushing away.

I will check my watch, my phone, my ticket, my carry-on, my facebook and the electronic signs approximately every 30 seconds. I will watch out the windows wondering which plane is mine, and think about flying. And then try to not think about flying. And then when I’m finally not-not-thinking-about-flying, my brother will creep in with yet another plane crash joke.

Giving up on the quality family time, I’ll take ages to locate a bathroom. I will wash my hands more than once, the soft soap and warm water is soothing. I’ll close my eyes and hope no one walks in and wonders what the weird chick is doing.

Eventually, I’ll get back to the table and resume checking everything I owe, everything the airport owns and glancing suspiciously at the time boards lest they cheat me out of escaping the horrendous wait.

Then I’ll line up, give some lady in a uniform a ticket and feel like I’m walking towards my imminent  death instead of a holiday. On the plane, I’ll convince myself I need to convince everyone else I’m not crazy and try to act nonchalant.

I know this will happen. I’m still terrified. Foresight is a horrible thing. 

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We are strangers everyday.

Everyday we are strangers- merely background figures in the lives of thousands. We forget the power that we have as a stranger in making a difference to someone’s life. We all started off strangers- imagine the strength of a world where being a stranger is no barrier to compassion and conversation. Where we recognise our global family, our brothers and sisters in the world.

I am a practical person. This isn’t a deeply spiritual message. But it’s taken me quite some time to realise that I don’t need to be someone ‘in power’ to have power. I don’t need to be the face of a change, in order to make a change. And that as one person, I can actually make a difference.

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This realisation came from people watching, and it started with the path in the picture on that walk home watching the sunset. I challenged myself to do 48 hours without complaining- yet immediately thought it was too hard and lost the challenge. Instead, I decided to think positively for a whole day. Contrary to what I would have predicted it was not my friends and family who helped me in this challenge, but strangers. Because this is what I saw:

– Someone who caught the hand of a child about to run onto a road.
– Strangers helping construction workers by holding open doors.
–  My colleague listening to an older customer talking about their day.
– The random girl at university who gave me a truly genuine smile.
– The mother using please and thank you when speaking to her young children.
– An acquaintance who  asks how I was, and prompted a full answer.

I saw patient, good natured, funny, kind-hearted and loving people. I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. But they are the strangers who changed my perspective, doing nothing unusual for them.

There is a stranger out there who holds my heart, but they don’t know it yet.

There’s a guy at the supermarket, he pushes trolleys. He always says hello and has the biggest smile for me when our eyes meet. I like seeing him, occasionally it even makes my day. I don’t think he has any idea how much that smile matters.

There’s a bus driver, he knows me by my purple backpack. He waits when I run, and pulls over even when I’m not paying attention to what’s going on.

There’s a neighbour in the street. We don’t talk much, but he heard our dog barking and came to check that we were okay. I still remember that, though I don’t think he would.

There’s my lecturer at university, who gave me another chance to pass the topic. “Now I trust that you know what you’re talking about- you can be so much more than the person who handed up the last paper”.

There’s a child I met volunteering. I didn’t know him, we were thrown together by chance, and then we spent a week together. We fought, argued and I never quite found the right words to make the peace. He hit, and punched and yelled and screamed.  I was supposed to be partnered with another child. That week remains one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I put him to bed one night, and without a word, he wrapped his arms around me and didn’t let go. He kissed me on the cheek- ‘thank you’ he whispered.  It was a seven year old who taught me about love.

There’s an intensive care nurse at the hospital. She doesn’t know me, we’ve never met. Her son fell in love with me and I broke his heart. I found out she saved my dad’s heart 3 years earlier.

There is a stranger everyday that I owe so much to. I almost love them in a way, they form a fascinating part of my story. Yet they don’t know their own worth.

But…I am a stranger too.

My regular morning customer. An older gentleman- and truly a gentleman. I haven’t had a conversation with him, yet every morning shift when I first started work he was there. He was a comfort, someone I learnt to recognise as a friendly face among the many customers who were not exactly morning people. It meant a significant deal to me that someone was nice, even when I made mistakes. He’s one of the reasons why I didn’t quit. Yesterday I had my first breakfast shift in a year. I saw the gentleman again. “Nice to see you back lass”… I smiled… I was an important stranger to him too.

Two young girls pulled aside for dangerous behaviour. Arguing in the rain, chasing through fields in the dark. “I hate you!” ,they screamed while the door was pushed against me. Forcing me way into a room. Having to tell each of the girls, she would be sent home. And that one girl…watching her devastation, hearing her cry. Listening to her frantic apologies, begging and promises. The moment when the girl realised we wanted her to stay. The look in a child’s eyes of being told they matter- that they are loved. I can’t imagine the look on my face in the realisation the child may never have heard those words before. The handwritten note of thanks, “Thank you for caring about me: thank you for teaching me right from wrong”.

The guy from work. We never used talk on shift, he wouldn’t meet my eyes. Then…”Thank you for listening”. The promise not to do drugs again, to find another way to escape. We talk everyday now. We taught each other slowly, how to care about each other despite being strangers. And now we are strangers no more.

Reaching out, making conversation- only now have I started to see that my actions have a ripple effect. I have found a calling of sorts, to help others realise this ripple effect too.

Strangers everywhere- you are always more important than you believe.

Fate finds us, love binds us.

There’s a lake in the hills, where a satchel rests over the end of an old wooden bench. The lake is peaceful, hidden by trees and reached only by a long, steep and winding track. A man, dedicated truly to his wife even in the days after her death has placed the satchel there in her memory- claiming the spot as theirs. The old, worn bag contrasts the protective laminate sheaf surrounding each faded piece of paper tucked carefully inside. 

While one day the satchel may go, and the bench may rot- that spot has found a sacred place in the hearts of many.  For inside the satchel, being touched by the memento of a powerful and lasting love, are the letters of people to one another- giving their hearts to the lake as the man and his lover did many years before. The papers are collected, and each new entry laminated by a stranger. The poems are each unique- some haunting, sad, inspiring but all entirely beautiful in their own right. The stories form conversations, providing an uplifting sentiment, solace or conveying an almost unfathomable amount of grief, hope or happiness scrawled across a torn page.

I flipped through them, feeling inexplicably connected to each author who has let me into their life for a brief moment. I don’t know the man that owned the satchel. I don’t know his wife who inspired such an act, that went on to become entwined in the lives of many people she will never know. And I don’t know any of the strangers whose ink and paper emotions, dreams and thoughts have crossed my own path.

But I do know that I will always remember that place- though perhaps it’s one of those magical places that your heart can only ever wander once. For I feel that if I tried to find it again, I never would, and my soul would be tied to eternally search for such depth, mystery and connection as by the lake of my memories.

The lives of strangers who may never meet have crossed at this particular point. Though this undoubtedly happens every day, when we form the background characters to another’s story, we never think to share with one another. Although the beaten path would have told of the many strangers who walked the lakeside, it was a man and his lost lover who taught us how to find each other.

 

We are all protagonists!

Many of the conversations I’ve had and the things I’ve read recently point to a fairly significant situation, in that many people seem to lack any satisfaction in their lives. They are not happy- and worse, they don’t expect to be happy anymore. Lately, it seems everything is shrouded in a little bit of grey- not a lot, just a little bit. It sort of hovers above heads, and around door ways and in the pauses of conversations. The grey is mundane, sadness and discontent. I see it in the news, on my newsfeed and in the expressions of the people I pass on the street. And it’s because we live in a grey world- a world crashing violently into the universe, where cynicism is handed out on every corner and where ‘love’ is bought on the other side of the same street.

Only, I don’t believe that is true. I personally, love the world I live in and I’m not afraid to tell anyone that. It’s not fear of ridicule or backlash that often keeps me from speaking my mind- but sadness. That in my life, many of the people I love are exactly as I described above- they have a little bit of grey that follows them around. It makes me sad that people are carrying this around with them- and the whole world ends up looking grey.

So in a little bit of midnight madness, I promised to myself that I would not be driven to see the grey in all things- but rather to see the beauty. Nice, right? Well it turns out that’s really, really, really hard and it doesn’t seem possible all the time. Yet, slowly but surely I have changed the way I think. And I’m going to share it with you- so hopefully there’s a little less grey in the world when I’m done.

I’m obsessed with stories- any stories. I like viewing my life as my story- it’s not always practical, but I like to. Then I see character development instead of a line of mistakes. I see complications and challenges, not failures. I am guilty of the ‘one bad day means a bad life’ thinking, paying attention to all the bad things and feeling the will to live being slowly drained.  It can be truly soul destroying. Yet, it doesn’t have to be. We can choose to notice all the beauty in the world instead. I see the bus driver that waited, the random girl who smiled at me when our eyes meet, person who gives back the extra change I gave them. I feel happier because these things form a part of a stable positive viewpoint, despite small complications.  So none of this take it a day at a time crap, you’ll never finish the book. I feel like if we stopped reading our lives one word at a time, and appreciated the whole story then we would all be happier.

Start to appreciate the other little things and not just the significant happy, fuzzy ones I mentioned above, which were all good deeds by kind strangers. Some days, the strangers won’t be so kind. I like coincidences. I love when my shirt perfectly matches the textbook I have to read for uni. I like it when the girl at the shop has the same name as my best friend. I like it when I arrive at the bus stop without checking, and the bus just arrives. They’re the little details, the spark and life of a good story, and the hallmark of a good writer- see that there’s just enough, but not enough to get caught up in.

Which brings me to the characters in the story.

I love the people of today, honestly. I have met so many beautiful, sincere, honest, loving and inspiring people in my almost 19 years, and thanks to the internet- all over the globe. I refuse to let bad experiences of one person tarnish how I feel about the beauty of humanity, and the purity of true love and connection with another person. The people in my life, now and in the past have shaped who I am- and I mean no insincere outpouring of affection when I say thank you to all of them.

Throw them together, the setting and the characters and the formation of a complicated plot. At times I have truly felt like the antagonist or the main character’s best friend- still significant, but not in control. And at those times – when you need to the most – it can be hardest to connect to those you need to. Learn to be resilient. Stop blaming other people. Start making choices that you’re happy with. Become someone you can believe in. Know that no matter what fancy plot device gets thrown at you- you’re the damn hero of this story.

And still on the stories vein, I am your average protagonist. I am relatable, and normal- the one the reader is able to see in his or herself. I have a story, full of incredible highs and lows. It has agony, sadness, excitement, desire, grief, happiness and confusion. Some days I feel like I can take on the world, other days I feel buried by it. And like many protagonists, I know that deep down, I am exactly like everyone else but I don’t always feel that way. More and more however, I have realised that I have a choice- and that often it is only my perception of something that rules how it will affect my life.

So to all my protagonists- rule your story, and rule your life. Because you are also the writer, and you don’t have to choose to be grey.

People

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At the visioning day of a charity, this poem was read out and something within it resonated with me, and my life at the moment – both with volunteering and my private life.

Coming to the realisation that all things in life are not beautiful and safe was hard. My faith formed a huge part of my identity a few years ago, and now that has changed. The realisation came suddenly, in mass one day when I realised I no longer felt connected to God. The distance from my faith however, came slowly as again and again I felt let down by a God I had loved, and a religion I had trusted in.

Confronting a part of yourself that you’ve always taken for granted is not easy. Questioning the way you live, the way you’ve been raised and the things you have trusted and believed in can be frightening. It was hard to come to terms with, and at times I still don’t understand what I believe in or even who I am. However, I have learnt to trust in people. To my faith in those I love, in the choices I make and enforced the development of self efficacy instead of looking for a place to hide. Now, a few years down the line- I am forced to confront those same questions of faith. This time with mortality, health, ethical dilemmas and relationships in mind. And the same answer appears- trust in PEOPLE. That in all times of sadness, happiness, strength and weakness- there will always be people.

It will take Prophet People
Who dare to lay bare the fallacies that choke and bind us,
Even if we cannot hear their words or dream their dreams

It will take Parent People
Who look with love at the work of their creation and refuse to leave their children only a heritage of destruction

It will take Nurture People
Who grow plants and feed birds and love what is fresh, green and growing

It will take Healing People
Whose hearts touch others into life and well-being, struggling always against the forces of death

It will take Poet People
Who call us beyond what we are, pointing to the lastingness of life

It will take Fun People
Whose role through time has been to nurture, to empower others, to make grow, to make new again

It will take Soul People
Whose eyes are clear and open, inviting trust and the kind of bonding that draws us together

It will take Justice People

Who cry out against oppressors of people and the destroyers of the earth

It will take Little People
Who don’t know themselves as special, but who are in truth the salt of the earth

It will take Spirit People
Fired with a holy madness, who believe our world can be transformed into a place of joy and hope and love.

It will take PEOPLE.

I loved this because I was surrounded by people, who embodied this poem so perfectly that none could help but trust wholeheartedly in them. And I loved this because I realised I am a person too- that I can put faith in myself.

Insightful bitterness with a dash of youthful hope.

A poem and a letter. A year ago written only to myself.

 

“All the things thought, but never said. The things we write but never send. The moments captured, but the photos never seen. All those things, belonging to me. They paint a picture you just won’t perceive, tell a story you won’t hear – uncovering the lies and revealing the truth in an unfiltered light. Hiding in plain sight, we choose the world for people’s eyes. No fear, no pain. No shame or despair. Only beauty and freedom and goodness to share. But the world is an illusion, a limitless display of want we want to be. Read between the lines. Catch us out, set us free. Tell me you really and truly know me.”

Everyone wants to matter. We hope that one day we’ll wake up and be that person we’ve always wanted to be. The happy person we know is lurking somewhere inside, but it seems so far about of our reach. So we throw ourselves into jobs, hoping to receive recognition because we work hard, because we’re there on time, because we always turn up, because we’re leaders, team workers and an essential part of a larger team. How often do you get a ‘thank you’ for this?  If people meet our expectations and ‘do their job’ does this mean they don’t deserve thanks? Too often, the pay check seems a lot less than our time is worth, but everyone needs money- right? Because money makes people happy- they pass it back and forth, seeking want they want- but only if they can afford what they need first.

Oh, and ALL those things that we want. The list never, ever, ever actual ends- does it? For all those people with internet access- we are constantly being bombarded with useless information. Our generation will like a page, share a photo and leave a message- but not write on an actual wall. Because all those stupid likes and shares are about the closest we get to caring. Pictures of starving children, war torn countries, struggling soldiers, the homeless on the streets, animal cruelty, cancer patients, victims of abuse and neglect. Stories of death, pain, sadness, guilt, loneliness, cruelty and despair. Keep scrolling. Or worse, hit ‘like’. Pretend to care.

Pictures of pretty girls and boys, unachievable lifestyles, beautiful things- expensive things. Jealous, enmity, lack of privacy. All on one page, I can see the best and worst of people’s lives. I see my friends’ party photos, their new dress, adorable siblings/children/pets, new shoes, A+ report card. I can read about their awesome life except how it sucks that they missed the bus. I see their profile picture and know that’s not who they are. When I read there profile pages, I barely see the person I know- I see the person they want others to think they are. When I look at mine, I see the exact same. No pain, drama, bad hair or crap clothes. No worries or struggles; all pretty dresses, cute cupcakes and sunny days.

I have the passion, moral conviction and fierceness of youth. The hesitance, danger and the purity of inexperience. One person can change the world. But our whole generation probably won’t change it for the better. We leave a digital footprint now- not real ones.

So I want to go on a quest to be real. But truthfully, it won’t  happen. I’m a wonderful hypocrite and I know it. Cause I sit here and type. And type. And type.

The digital footprint grows larger.

And I’ll never take a step to fight for these problems in the real world.

“Follow your dreams or you’ll spend your life working for someone who did”

So I wrote all of the above in a letter to myself almost a year ago, and its a interesting piece to force self reflection. Truthfully, while I’m ready to share, I don’t yet feel ready to question my own thoughts, hopes, dreams – in fear that my cynical heart will turn inwards and find only suspicion of the person I was, and worse, the person that I am.

Beginining in the Middle of the Start

So…I haven’t written a blog before. Honestly, I think I’ve read a grand total of three blogs ever and those as favours to a friend. I’m conflicted about starting now. Yet at 18 years old, I already feel I have something to share and that maybe, writing will help me find out exactly what that thing is.

Over the last few years, I have grown up a little- I can’t truly say a lot. And while in many aspects, I am still treated and act like a child, the harshest reality of the grown up world is that it’s really not all that different from childhood. Except sadder, and longer. Sometimes adulthood appears like being chained to a tea set with dolls, and imagining all the other children are playing outside.

Well, I’ve challenged myself. Not to become that adult in despair. Who lives an ordinary life hoping for an extraordinary future. Who lives each day not in misery, but not happiness either. I’ve challenged myself to be positive and for the most part, I’ve failed- but I’m going to keep trying.

And another challenge. I believe that I, and my friends and the people in my life can change the world. I know, it’s a big one.

But we’re going to do it. Trust us.