Fear Of Missing Out


Credit: laverrue / Flickr

Credit: laverrue / Flickr

I got in quite late to the summer internship game. You could see people scrambling for CV clinics and after-hours dinners with associates desperately trying to get that business card to use on their applications. The whole process seemed quite inhuman – a game that was constantly being played between graduate recruiters and students that weren’t really sure what they were getting themselves into. The promise of quick money, security and a lifestyle to match was dangled like a carrot in every presentation I went to.

And then I would walk out and see other students protesting about the real state of affairs: the falling pay of lecturers, the lack of a minimum wage for low paid staff and food banks becoming more prevalent in the surrounding areas. It created a terrible inner-turmoil.

I am not a particularly empathetic person, although I am trying harder to listen. It’s easy to get sucked in by false promises and fancy titles. Even being at Warwick is drastically different to what I expected and it looks nothing like the prospectus. I am no fool. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but maybe I was looking for something that would make more of an impact, especially when the world for many of us is just beginning. Are the next 10 years of my life just about setting up the next 30? Would I really be brave enough to go against the tide of things, to really push myself to take a risk?

The short answer is no. A frankly honest and emphatic no. The truth is, the reason that many of us feel the need to source and strive for these opportunities so early on in our lives, is for the very real fear that we could end of with nothing. After spending all of this money, the countless hours putting together essays and assignments, as well as the constant struggle that is dealing with one of the most emotionally fragile periods of our lives…we could go back home to our loved ones “supposedly” empty handed. Progression can be a positive step in the right direction, but a shackle around the ankle if we don’t climb high enough.

And the world is just waiting to drag us down. You don’t have to stare at your phone for long to see how difficult life is for other people that you have never met. Dodging ignorance and explosives at every turn, in the most remote parts of the world, just to get into school praying that it isn’t targeted by a militia. Education is not a struggle for us. We are the privileged ones. The overachievers. We don’t get things wrong or make the wrong call. We do better than our friends, and achieve more than our parents because of their sacrifice. And still, we complain that the world isn’t big enough – that another firm rejected us, or we simply couldn’t secure the job we wanted.

I am spoilt. As are many of you. I was very fortunate, after much effort, to be able to secure a placement for this year – I am so grateful that I played the game and won. An achievement that I did not think I could realistically get to. But I haven’t forgotten the struggle or the understanding that it was a challenge. A part of me is extremely frightened of going into the world of work – the idea of actually stepping into the next stage of life.

Though I know one thing for sure. That there is more to life than a job. And a career is built around the people that benefit from your generosity and not the other way around. It seems the richer you get, the less you value the wealth you actually have – because you forget what richness is. Spend 10 or 12 weeks living in that flat, making your mark on wherever you are going and really push yourself to succeed.

But realise that real success is giving back. And when you finally have the power in your hands, don’t keep it all to yourself. Share it. Never forget how lucky you really are.

I’m Too Busy


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It’s easily done. You want to make the most of your time, combined with the fact that you rarely say no. You have a diary covered in biro from the various meetings and lunches that you have to attend. When you ask a friend if you can meet up for a drink, both of your eyes avert directly to your phones to see whether your calendars can squeeze each other in. Spontaneity is allowing them to decide where you are going. The idea of being impulsive is a distant memory when you think about all the responsibilities you have to keep.

I have been guilty of this. This is only the second post that I have written in four months. I’m actually embarrassed at the fact that I have forgone one of the things that I have loved doing for so long, because so called “more important” things have taken over. For all intents and purposes, that is an illusion. The only reason that I was reminded to write something, was after a chance encounter with a friend who said that they read the blog. Then it hit me.

I hadn’t even thought about it in months. I always keep a list of things that I want to write, but the chances are these ambitions get squashed because, you guessed it…I’m too busy. It really got me thinking about my priorities on a day-to-day scale. How often do I sacrifice things that make me happy on a daily basis to graft for the long-term vision? You can tell yourself that things are going in the right direction, and by busying yourself with a list of tasks, how do you actually know where you are? Have you given yourself a chance to reflect?

It pays to take a day off and do the things that you have been putting off. The reason that your productivity is so low, is because you give yourself nothing to look forward to. And I am not talking about that dinner that you offered yourself as a treat for writing that essay, but the food for your soul. Let me give you an example. I went to India for the first time last year, and in 6 months, not once have I looked back at my diary or even contemplated going through the pictures. Yet, it sits on my to-do list, circled vigorously with the vague urgency to get to it. That doesn’t work.

The one thing that I have realised, is that the best things you do don’t get put on your lists of mundane tasks for the day. They sit dormant in your mind whilst you contemplate taking time out of your busy schedule to actually do them. Now is the chance to make time.

For the next 30 days, I have set myself the target to write something every day on this platform. To be honest, I am quite scared, because I have never written with that level of frequency before and I fear that it could get self-indulgent. So watch out. But this is a challenge and it means making an effort. It means making time. It means “I’m too busy” isn’t good enough.

You should try and do the same. Start thinking about the things you have been putting off, the people you haven’t met, the places you haven’t visited. What can you do in the next 30 days to consciously free up your schedule and release the shackles of your packed diary?

Try it. You really have got nothing to lose.

This Is For You


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I’m sitting on a train contemplating adulthood. I never much felt like a teenager, but now it’s a fact. And I can’t help feeling like I got here too soon. Thinking back to the first time I got on a tube myself, or when my Mum trusted me to get the bus to school on my own, clutching a handful of 20p coins that I shakily gave the bus driver. Snatching my ticket and jerking my head back, I could see a smile on her face and watery eyes – I was growing up. Now sitting on a train, the thousandth time on my own, it makes me realise how such a scary notion has become second nature.

I started to look back at my old school photos, and wondered how I’ve managed to lose the dimple in my left cheek over the years. How the clothes started to get a bit tighter and the collar a bit sharper. And the final one in a suit, with hair slicked back, almost ready to take on the world too soon. Now wearing the same suit, with three others in the wardrobe, ready to take on job interviews and actually seeing the minus sign in my bank account disappearing (for a short while at least).

Being 20 comes with pressure. And it is all self-inflicted. The party that I turned up to seven years ago, when I didn’t really know anyone, has become all too familiar. It isn’t about video games but the Game, and the drinks are less fizzy and more fermented. Everyone is a little bit more blurry, and the morning after is starting to hit harder. Innocence was lost a long time ago, but Ignorance is starting to fade. As I read in a recent VICE article, the party doesn’t end until you wake up and walk home.

But I don’t want to. I was sitting with a few friends in the early hours of this morning, the obligatory “Happy Birthday” sung amidst some of the people that really matter at university. I wasn’t in a mass of people, there was no cake or formality – it was a relaxed smile and a cold drink…I much prefer that. The party that I am turning up to has changed, the world has changed, but I haven’t – not in myself. The real 13 year old that got onto the bus, handing in that change, is now looking to make a different sort of change at 20.

I am not a birthday person. I never have been, but I like the fact that I can reconnect with my past, and the people that hold up that mirror. This is the first time it felt different. When I woke up feeling like things are actually clearer. I am healthy, content, assured, smiling and loved. I couldn’t ask for much more when the daylight hit my face this morning.

This birthday isn’t for me. I never want it to be. I want it to be about the people that have supported me. That have loved and lost me. That have walked in and out, leaving the door open so I can see them waving in the distant. This day is my thank you to them – not the other way around. Because I wouldn’t be here to “celebrate” it without them. I would still be the shaky handed, slick haired kid with fear in his eyes as to what was coming.

My body is not shaking anymore, although my hair is a little rougher. And I definitely need a shave. I am not afraid of the future, I am embracing it. And this means embracing you. So if you see me, hold out for that hug and smile.

Because this is for you. Cheers.

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Five Minutes on your Birthday


Credit: flickr / christinawelsh

Credit: flickr / christinawelsh

We were up until about 1 o’clock this morning. However, we were not excited in the run up to ripping wrapping paper off gifts or preparing ourselves for a day of constant consumption, we were contemplating. My dad, brother and I, in the absence of being well enough to go to Church this year found ourselves sitting and watching Midnight Mass on the television; one of the few times we have not actually made it in person in my life.

My father made it a tradition well before I was born. That on the eve of Jesus’ birth, we would go to Church and be a part of a tradition that has spanned for over a thousand years. We are not Christians, but it would not be Christmas without hymns, carols, prayer and a sense of peace. Although that is lost on many this year and in the last few.

The holiday has changed – it has become many different things to many people now. I actually think it is great that people spend this time with their families and even if we need to spend lots of money, buy into a consumerist culture and do all of these things as pretence, then at least it is a start. Festivals are supposed to be about remembrance and if that enables you to stop and think, then you can only take the positives from that.

But don’t lose the meaning. It is like going to someone’s birthday party, eating all of their food, enjoying their hospitality and then forgetting to say “Happy Birthday!” to the host. The reason why you all turned up in the first place. Enjoy the festivities, and make the most of your time with your loved ones but realise the sacrifice that one man made, whether you believe in the story or not.

It is not about being pedantic, neither it is about being critical nor mocking the beliefs of others. There are days where we can put our arguments to the side and understand how important sacrifice is and how one individual personified this. I usually use Christmas to read the Bible, or to learn another story about a man that is so revered around the world. It is a shame that when we subscribe to so many fantastic characters, we forget Jesus Christ because Christianity becomes a barrier.

A Prophet in Islam, an Avatar in Hinduism and the Saviour in Christianity; there are very few individuals that many of the most prevalent religions have reverence for. Take some time to understand why he was so special, even if it just for a minute in between the Eastenders special and that movie you have been looking forward to seeing. Because when you tuck in to your dinner, there was someone who broke bread and wine for your salvation, whether you followed him or not, because he believed that you would be the answer.

He believed in man. In you. I don’t think 5 minutes out of your year on his birthday is too much to ask.

What Can I Write On This To Bring Them Back


Credit: Kashif Haque

 

I walked into the newsroom on Tuesday and logged in. It felt like a normal day, sat out on the balcony, next to my manager. As I do every day, I looked at the headlines to acquaint myself with what is going on so that I would be on top of the curve in the office. Making a good impression. I’d never even heard of Peshawar before, but I knew who the Taliban were. The more of the article I read, the more the hole is my stomach grew and filled with sickness. I asked for five minutes to compose myself outside in the fresh air – making sure that I didn’t make eye-contact with anyone, my eyes fixed on the way ahead.

The room continued as normal, buzzing with stories, but I could not help but feel hollow. You can understand it, you become desensitised to tragedy and loss because there is so much of it that stains the papers everyday with blood. But I am not of such a breed, it is not my job to report on what happens – but my duty as a human being to feel the loss of 132 sets of families in the same moment.

It didn’t make me angry. It made me fearful. Frightened of an existence where a human being, (although I would not classify the beings that conducted those acts to have humanity) can walk into a classroom and shoot a group of innocent children. Who can then, after hearing the screams and seeing the room turn scarlet, casually walk into the next and repeat the same thing again. Walking around to make sure that not a single child would stir amongst the occupation of their thick, black military boots.

Conflict has become dirty. It is abhorrent to be in a society where individuals who have no hope of defending themselves can be extinguished. Where the bodies of innocent school children are sacrificed to make a political point. Have we stooped so low? The saddest part is that these kids were learning to look past the differences. They were becoming wiser. But when the ignorant are armed with guns, their textbooks do not provide sufficient protection.

I am an advocator of free education. A sense of learning and entitlement. But can we really advocate education without protecting it? Malala survived, but how many children are extinguished every day for getting on a school bus, when we complain that our own bus is 10 minutes late? The gulf between the young people of the three worlds is getting wider and it won’t be long before the conflict becomes out of arms reach. We make our placards about education for all, we demonstrate for cuts in fees, but how many of us actually use our learning to help those that really need it? Education is a right that needs to be protected, because when we don’t, it becomes a weapon in a political power play.

Every journalist must feel this...

Credit: Slice of Simplicity

 

Trafalgar Square was solemn on Wednesday night. I arrived 40 minutes before the candlelit vigil was set to begin, organised by university students, to remind the people of Peshawar that the world was with them. But it wasn’t the people, or the lights, or the pictures that made me think – but it was the signs. The title of this post was written on a placard at the front, “What Can I Write On This To Bring Them Back”, others read simply “Enough. We are tired.” So am I. Tired of walking into a newsroom and seeing the anguish of families carrying their loved ones in rushed, wooden caskets, as the world starts to forget they exist.

“When a wife dies, we call the husband is a widower. When a husband dies, we call the wife is a widow. When parents die, we call the child an orphan. But when a child dies, there is no word to encapsulate the pain that the parents feel – we just cannot begin to imagine this suffering”  – Taken from a speech at the candlelit vigil

There is nothing I can say here that is going to bring them back. There is nothing that, God forbid, will stop tragedies like this occurring tomorrow. However, the thing that will change is the attitude I saw at the vigil. People standing in silence, together, existing as a barrier between the ignorant and the innocent. We will protect them from harm. Condemnation is not enough anymore, and violence is all too much. It’s time we stopped skimming and really started talking about it. Hold hands with the person next to you, hold their hearts and realise that they are all you have, even if you don’t know them.

When we start realising how precious life is – how survival is really all we have – then we can start building the bridges towards each other. Just start by seeing the humanity in others, and it can’t be lost. Not entirely anyway. Because spirit is bulletproof.

Never forgotten in our souls – the 141 that didn’t make it out of school this time. They wait for us by the gates.

#PrayForPeshawar

Shed Perspective


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2 years ago, I wrote the post Shed Light which has probably been my most popular blog to date. The reason why many of you will have kept up with me until now. Since then I have been trying to find answers which is what I set out to do. I have never stopped being hungry in asking questions and trying to further my understanding.

Knowledge precedes understanding, but understanding precedes perspective. Everything must be seen in context. I wrote that post on Diwali which is the most auspicious day in the Hindu calendar marking the journey that Lord Rama makes from one side of India to the other, to get home. The day after Diwali is Bestuvaras which marks the start of the New Year, which in this case is 2071. It is fitting that after the day of illumination, it should be followed by a new beginning. The chance to change perspective.

I was fortunate enough to go to India this year and spend some time with some amazing kids. Many of them were disabled – born without limbs, deformities, psychological defects and even blind – and it was a privilege to see their perspective on life. Within a week of coming back to England, I broke my leg and had a chance to see what it was like to be in their position. After seeing how well they dealt with their hardships, I realised how ungrateful and selfish I was.

I wallowed in self-pity. I became agitated because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. I blamed myself for my situation and made it seem like I was the only person suffering. Through the trauma, I spared no thought for those worse off. “I was hurt…this was horrible…fuck everyone else” and in this way I became the one thing that I made a commitment not to be in 2012. Ignorant.

Weeks down the line now, I realise how ungrateful I was. It was a natural reaction to what happened, but I am disappointed that I didn’t open my eyes. There is a magic in positive thinking that is underrated. There was nothing I could do about my situation, other than to change my perspective about it. I would have to change my lifestyle, but not necessarily for the worse, as rather than running, I have been able to spend more time with the people that matter most.

So this is my commitment to the next two years. Every time I feel like my eyes are closing in dark times, I need to remember in my mind’s eye those kids that found solace in themselves. Knowing that adversity is the catalyst of progress, not the restriction of it. From now on, I am going to take the blinkers off and realise how good it is to appreciate what I actually have.

This year as a resolution to yourself, regardless of whether you are Hindu or not, use perspective as a positive. Tell yourself how lucky you are each day to be alive. Smile at what you love about yourself. Message the people that love you – don’t wait for them. Hold out your hand for those that need it. Look at what is in front of you and relish the challenge. Take risks. Walk (or in my case hobble) forward.

And if you ever feel like your eyes are closing, read this post again to remind yourself of how great it is to feel the light hit your pupils for the first time each morning. Then get up and live.

The Worst Week of My Life


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It has been just over a week now since I came out of the hospital and was discharged to come home. A friend kindly dropped me off to my house, where I hobbled groggily to my room on my crutches, still coming down from the painkillers that had been pumped into me for the past 24 hours. I felt…no that’s a lie, I couldn’t really feel anything, so I sat down on my bed in silence and my ears started to burn. This already sounds incredibly dramatic, but it is my intention to paint a picture and not to incite any sympathy at all. I am not good at dealing with sympathy.

After coming down from the high of conquering India for the first time on my own, I launched myself straight into my second year of university. Without pausing for breath, I started to run at my course, my friends and all of the things that I was looking forward to this year. At the end of my first week, I stopped running. Slipping over on a night out, I broke my ankle in two places (the first thing that I have actually broken) and have been on crutches ever since. Now everything has become a lot more difficult.

I can deal with physical pain. There are pills and potions that can make things numb and painless, but trauma is a completely different beast. When I have to prepare myself to stand up and walk the two metres to the door of my room just to turn the light off so I can go to sleep, I feel the trauma. It is an uncontrollable urge to run when you can’t walk. When you have to rely on everyone around you to do things for you, because you can’t look after yourself, is when I feel the pang of guilt from my own idiocy.

This is my fault. However much the accident was just that, an accident, the steps that I took to get there are all my own. And that is what makes this the hardest thing I have had to cope with. All the funny looks and laughs are justified, because I am the one to blame. These are the consequences.

I have been so self-indulgent recently, and even this is just an extension of that. Because my world has changed so drastically, I have forgotten how fortunate I am to have all of these people around me that are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I get better without complaint. I am eternally grateful for them. There are many who are close to me in the same breath who have let me down and it has made me see them in a new light.

Although the most upsetting thing is knowing that you have let yourself down. When you look at yourself and see the shadow of the person that you once were. That is the bitterest pill to swallow. You look down every day and are constantly physically reminded of the stupid mistake that you made. The mistake that will make every second of every hour a struggle until it is healed. The cast will come off in a few months and I will walk again. But it is not the physical wound that requires attention, but the mental cut that continues bleed. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for that trauma.

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