When the world is telling you to be alone

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I was sitting on my bed per usual stroking my cat Lily when she decided enough was enough and swiftly jumped off my lap. The rejection stung for a mere 20 seconds and I got on reading my book. That’s something I’ve always respected about cats, when they want to be alone, they make it happen. No worrying about people’s feelings, no second guessing.  I used to be like that, when I wanted some alone time from the bustle of my life I took some time away from it. I would travel alone, climb a mountain, read a book, anything that allowed for those precious moments on my own.

Don’t confuse being alone for loneliness. I enjoy one but not the other.  Breaking up with friends, even if you haven’t fought, or splitting up with a boyfriend can leave you feeling lonely. I was rebounding from both. The problem wasn’t necessarily either, but this overwhelming obligation to go finding new friends and a partner almost immediately. You see being in my late 20s I’ve heard the phrase ‘you’re not getting any younger’ a lot. Despite my reluctance to ever be tied down by a husband or children, those words start to wear on you. The worst part is you start to believe that you should be following what society is ordering you to do.

However society and the world are not the same thing. As I aimlessly went from date to date, the world was giving me strong hints that I wasn’t ready to settle. Job offers from abroad started to appear in my inbox.  Friends living in different parts of world extending invites, my father at almost 82 reminding me it’s my life and telling me diligently on his hospital bed about his regrets for not experiencing more from life. I kept ignoring the signs, until one day lying in Bloomsbury Square appreciating the London sun while listening to The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, a final attempt to elevate my spirits, a student from South America asked me for directions. He was meeting friends at The Museum Tavern, I directed him the best I could with my broken Spanish. He thanked me back in English, not before saying ‘everyday is an adventure in London’. That’s when it hit me, I had lost the adventure in my life. My depression, lack of self esteem and excitement was down to my routine, the shear boredom of repeated days. When I got into that routine, I felt the time slip through my hands and it frightened me. No. It terrified me.

Then I went back to the library, opened a tab up and started searching for interns abroad, cheap plane tickets, field schools, anything- just adventure. And when I do find it, I’ll make sure to make the most of it.

Hot Feminist

 

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Image: pexels.com

I’ve been reading a book, I know! Somehow miraculously through all the editing, dog sitting, university assignments, and you know generally fucking around I’ve had time to pick up a book and read. Don’t worry I’m already patting my head in self-gratification, I also get brownie points for completing it in a week. The book, Hot Feminist delves into the identity of the self-labelled, Hot Feminist. A woman who takes pride in the way she looks but still holds onto feminist values, such as gender equality, ending sexual assault and closing the gender pay gap. Although these are important issues, many modern feminists see the obsession of vanity equally as horrifying. Wanting to shave your armpits or wanting to wear those three-inch heels are seen as tantamount to succumbing to the patriarchy.

Reviews for Hot Feminist varied considerably,  many reviewers seemingly not understanding what the book was trying to convey. She’s not saying, I’m so much better than you because I buy MAC and shop at Karen Millen, she’s saying it’s ok to be hot. For years, I always wondered if somehow by wearing a dress made me less of a feminist, merely fodder for male fantasy.  The problem it seems and I wholeheartedly agree with Miss Polly Vernon on this is that Feminism is so disjointed, everyone’s idea of feminism is paramount and if you somehow don’t agree with theirs then it somehow makes you a lesser person. It wasn’t until university that I started identifying as a feminist, I don’t know what it was about the Creative Arts, but it makes one ultra aware of their privilege and others as well. You can’t help but compare how much easier certain groups of people have it over you. And of course how much easier you have it over others.

And for many years, I wore jeans, baggy jumpers, and converse to tell the world: I’m not here to be objectified. I won’t ever be blamed for unwanted attention because of the length of my skirt. My validation will not come through meaningless comments from people on the street (or Tinder matches).  But as I look back at that period (Ah Facebook, a constant reminder of how shit one’s life was and or still is) I shudder, I don’t look happy, I look mildly amused at the very best. The truth was I felt hollow. Even though I had started on my quest to be an archaeologist I was deeply unsettled, displeased with my shitty part time job, worried that potential dates would judge me about still living with my folks, and last but not least scared that this whole caring about not caring facade would eventually break. Everyday, I dressed like I had some adventure waiting for me as soon I left university, and this was all due to my belief that people would take me more seriously. But did it?

The short answer is: no. I was constantly belittled by others, reminded that ‘I was only a student’ and that I dressed like a 13 year prepubescent boy (slight exaggeration). The criticism I received not only knocked my confidence in my academic work, but also in my relationship with others. I had intentionally made myself unhappy. And I was so unhappy. Because I wanted people to think I didn’t care about my appearance, but I did and probably always will. This is not to say I have an unhealthy obsession with my outward appearance, I like to think that I have a ‘normal level’ interest. Shopping, scrolling through  H&M’s website in the office (while that foreboding deadline comes closer), caring about your appearance doesn’t necessarily make you a bad feminist. It’s just one of those feminist non-arguments that routinely gets thrown around. It’s amusing that columnists or just people in general don’t dish out criticisms on decorating one’s home or office spaces or keeping the garden hedges nicely trimmed. Yet somehow, caring about make up, hair, and clothes is criticised as as being vain or a victimization of the patriarchy. This what I call Negative feminism, mostly seen through Twitter and endless Tumblr posts, creeping into women’s psyche making them question every decision in fear of being judged. Let’s face it, Twitter/ Tumblr feminism has become extremely self-righteous. Isn’t feminism suppose to be about allowing women to make their own choices? That’s the feminism I signed up for and that’s the one I’ll keep marching for even in heels.

Never regret change

There are a number of reasons why I wanted to make this post. Looking back at previous posts I was surprised by my overall anxiety. I’ve spent most of my life concerning myself with the need to make changes to my life, to feel like I’m always progressing and not regressing. It’s destructive, because progression shouldn’t be forced, it needs to be a natural result of your experience. I had a mini crisis regarding my current life choices a few months back, while I was on a dig in Spain profusely vomiting from heat exhaustion, lying on my bed wondering if I had made a huge mistake. We all have those moments, where we meditate on our live choices. We look back and wonder if that was the right thing to do, was splitting up with him or her what I really wanted? Was quitting that job financially short-sighted? But after thinking it through for a long time, I can honestly say we should never regret making choices that change our lives for the better. Especially conscious choices to improve our lives.

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Looking at Aztec codices

When I was living in Japan as a journalist and later in London, I was depressed because when you get to the bare bones of it; creativity and writing are not mutually exclusive. I had known for awhile that I wanted to venture back to university and take a degree in archaeology. But at 26 I was reluctant, societal expectations for a woman my age is not to go back into education. Most women cave under this enormous pressure; they feel like they have to comply by this timeline that they don’t necessarily want to follow.  The importance of doing what you want regardless of others is a sentiment I’ve held onto dearly throughout life. Unfortunately it has and always will make me somewhat of a social pariah.

I’m in my second year of my time at University College London and although I’ve had moments of overwhelming anxiety mostly monetary I’ve not faltered. You are always going to be letting down someone in your life, just don’t make it yourself; everyone owes it to themselves to live a fulfilling life, whether that’s family or a career, or just a life of pure adventure. Making changes to ensure that you are happy even if they don’t follow certain societal expectations is critical to being true to yourself.  These changes haven’t been easy, there have been negative reactions, there have been assumptions about my reluctance to join mainstream society. You must block out those voices, never regret positive change. 

Forget your balls, and grow a pair of tits

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During my young adult years, I had never really felt any oppression for being a woman. Throughout my years in university I never understood the strong stance feminists in my halls took against the opposite gender. Lecturers, fellow students all talked to me on the same level and valued any opinion I brought forward. Now, let’s fast-forward 5 years, I present to you a very different person, someone my 21-year old self could never hope to understand.

It really is hard out here for “a bitch”.

I don’t believe you are a born a feminist, your experiences mold you into one. You start off walking through life quite care-free, and then you start stumbling over the barrage of injustices that occur from being a woman. The only mistake you made? Being born the “wrong” gender.

Gender debate aside,  one can’t help but wonder what had happened along the way for me to turn into such an ‘aggressive feminist’. Was it the constant need for validation from the opposite sex, since all my bosses had been male?  Or was it the constant objectification I experienced when I wore dresses and skirts on a hot day?

Moving to Japan, enlightened me a fair bit, I was constantly subjected to a number of males who had no real respect for women, their shock when they found out that “I wanted a career” and had no real desire to get married were all initially quite amusing, but quickly became tiresome. But, then I became complacent, I started to think that England was a country filled with men who understood and wanted equality for women, a dreamland some would say for equal opportunity.

When I arrived back in England, it was quite the wake-up call. The equality paradise I had fooled myself into believing in whilst I was in Japan had been nothing more than a fantasy. Dates, formal arrangements and even friendly discussions had all become archaic and a little derisive. If I had an opinion it was quickly shutdown and there is nothing worse than feeling stigmatised for airing how you feel, especially on matters that you deeply believe in.

Friends of mine know I am a deep ecologist, and a biocentrist. I believe in, and attempt to live within the borders of the basic laws of ecology. I’m not here to be liked, I’m not here to make friends,  I only want to be taken seriously.

That’s been the one saving grace, my male friends who haven’t fallen for this whole “misogynistic” view that women’s opinions don’t really matter. Fortunately, I seem to attract well-rounded individuals, who don’t dismiss people’s ideas or views, because they’re simply different.