Letters to my Past and Future Self

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop”

– Confucius

Dear past self,

Yesterday was my birthday, and as your parents always said, to be another year older means also to be another year wiser.  From the mere 23 years I have lived, this old saying is so far proving to be true.  2 decades have passed, and I am entering into my third one, and although my life experience is still insignificant, here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

First of all, life is messy.  It’s an obvious fact, but something that can be overlooked.  Everyday we plan what we want our day to be like, and yet it will never go as planned.  That is because there are things that you can control, and things you cannot control.  And while we do our best to plan and perfect the former, the latter will always come as a surprise and break the flow of our plans.  Life is messy and unpredictable, but learn to love the unpredictability and learn to love the spontaneity.  Learn that life isn’t beautiful because it is perfect, but rather, see the beauty in the imperfectness of things.  Learn that life is not about the where you are at the end, but rather about how you got there.  The process is what makes life fun, and what makes for a good story, and the process is where you have the chance to develop as a human, and improve yourself.

Second, know that there will be times when others see potential in you that you don’t see.  And when this happens, trust them.  Similarly there will be times when you see potential that others don’t see in you, in which case trust yourself.  As you grow up, you will find it harder to trust other people because you experience hurt and betrayal, but it’s so important to trust others when they support you.  Life is all about inclusion, and whatever you do, it’s always good to have support, so when you are hired for a job you never thought you’d get, or when someone you never thought would, offers you help, trust that they see something that you do not yet see in yourself.  Trust that they will help you, so long as you work hard and keep at it.  Yet more importantly, always trust yourself.  While other people may betray you, you will always be the one person who continues to support you no matter what.  Don’t lose that.  There will, quite opposite to the former situation, be times when others do not see what you see in you.  When this happens, know that only you know what you want, what you are capable of and what you are prepared to do, and so trust that belief and keep moving forward.

Always ask for help if you need it.  As scary as it might be to ask, there will always be someone who will be willing to help you out.  As the saying goes “if you don’t ask, you will never get”.

Follow your instincts.  They don’t call it a “gut feeling” for nothing.  When something feels right or wrong, follow that feeling.  Your head might be saying otherwise, but your head says a lot of unnecessary things too.  Society might say otherwise too, but really, who are you living for, them or yourself?  Most of the time, if you are drawn to something, compelled to take action, then whatever it is, probably is the right thing to do.  Even if it means jumping into the unknown, be fearless and go for it.

Which leads me to my next point; get out of your comfort zone and learn from the experience.  Know that the comfort zone is a stationary zone.  While it doesn’t make you regress, it doesn’t help you progress either.  Getting out of it, means challenging yourself, and that is when you really see what your limits are.  You’ll be surprised because more often than not, we place our limits a lot lower than it actually is.  Being out of your comfort zone will help you realise your own potential and gain confidence, because you’d be proud of yourself for getting out in the first place.  Initial impressions of things are not always the lasting ones.

And finally, keep moving forward.  Do all the above, and if things still doesn’t seem to be looking up, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Know that sometimes you can put a load of effort into something and it goes to pieces.  Life will not always be a cup half full, but it’s about how you handle the obstacles that are put in your way.  If you can get up one more time than you are knocked down, that in itself is showing strength, and life will naturally find a way to give you something you deserve as a result of it.  Don’t regret the past, learn   from it, and just keep moving forward, one step at a time.

You still have a lot to learn, a lot to improve and the whole world is your oyster.  Make the most of it because you just don’t know when things might turn around, for better or for worse.  Keep your head high and take on each challenge as it comes.  Don’t fear life, live it.

 

***

Dear future self

Now to my future self, I hope you are still sticking to your values.  I hope that you are spending quality time with friends and family, and telling them how much they mean to you regularly.  I hope you are taking the time everyday to be grateful for all that you have, and all the opportunities that have come your way.

I hope you are working hard, and prioritising things well.  Hopefully you’re not putting too much strain.  Work hard, but don’t over work.  Have a break, and sleep in sometimes even though it’s what you hate the most.

I hope you are still being active and playing tennis, and reading books.  I hope you are still educating yourself because education is priceless.  I hope you are learning new skills be it languages, hobbies or what not.

Most importantly, I hope you are doing something that helps others.  I hope you give more than you are taking.  I hope you are going out in the fields and seeing the world, and still maintaining the positive faith you have in the good of the human heart.  I hope that you still have the courage to stand back up after falling, and that you are looking forward not back.  For you, the future me, is what motivates the current me, and inspires me to do the things I do.  You, the future me, is my role model and the person I look up to, so I hope you are enjoying your life, and making the most of it too.

 

Identity and Being Human.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no ones definition of your life, but define yourself”

– Harvey Fierstein

I actually had a couple topics I wanted to write about before I posted this, but with everything going on in the news right now, it’s become a topic that I can’t sit still and watch happen.  I needed to get some things off my chest.

Identity.  It’s a mysterious word.  We know what it means, but when we have to define it, it becomes difficult, and when we look at ourselves and how we, as each individuals, identify ourselves, we realise that each individual is so unique and different to the next individual.  This is not new, and more recently, there have been specific classes in school that look into religion and identity for example.  But here, I want to look at human and identity.

I touched upon it in one of the early posts when I gave my own understanding of what it means to be human and what it means to be a person, and how the latter had a lot to do with the concept of identity.  I didn’t go into much detail on identity then, but I do want to delve deeper into it now.  Identity is something that even scholars cannot all agree completely on, where some argue that it’s inherent, and comes from within, while others argue that it is a social construct.  It is in many ways how we, as one human, distinguishes ourself from the next, and allows us to be part of a group, or part of a category where one can relate to.  Identity is sharing a thought, belief, race, sexuality, experience, so really it has a lot to do with a shared something.  Yet, while identity means sharing and inclusion, it can also lead to division and exclusion.

Social stigma, and social exclusion is not new, and while some of us may have been fortunate enough to have never experienced feeling left out or excluded, many of us have been victim to this.  Whether you’re treated differently because of your race, gender, sexuality or religion, one way or another, we, the brilliantly intellectual human beings, have found ways to create conflict in times of peace and division in times of unity.  And this is exactly what got me questioning, whether being human means taking a step back and disassociating oneself from one’s identity.

I was first exposed to this new thought, when I was reading HH the Dalai Lama’s book on “Happiness” followed by his other book written alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu called “The Book of Joy”.  Both are advocates of peace, love and compassion and truly respected religious leaders, be it completely different religions.  It was there, that it was mentioned how it is important when talking to people, to talk to the human.  The walking, talking, thinking organism created by bones and muscle.  The very animal that all share the capacity to love, laugh and cry.  Because it is at this level that we are all equal.

Please, just take a moment to think about this.

If we strip ourselves from our most recent experiences, if we strip ourselves from what we categorise ourselves to be, we strip ourselves down to the very basic nature that is, being human (which, is precisely what this blog is about).  Your Muslim friend might share different religious views to your Christian friend.  Your straight friend might have different opinions than your gay friend.  Your multicultural, multilingual friend might have different ways of doing things than your straight up local friend.  We are all different, in so many ways, and each of what makes us different, the experiences, have led to these differences.  But strip that away, and your friend is still your friend, your friend is very much human just like you.  Strip that away and you realise that when you are insulting, or excluding another person, you are ultimately insulting and excluding yourself.  Strip the identity away, and soon you realise that a religion, race, sexuality, gender never mattered.  It’s times when you see your own stereotypes being wrong like a skinhead helping an old woman cross the road (as a most generic and hopefully least controversial example) that it becomes so apparent how irrelevant identity can be.

It’s difficult.  There’s no doubt about it.  It’s hard to disassociate yourself from identities that have defined you for your whole life, or how your surroundings have defined you.  It’s also hard to imagine, to lose your identity.  It’s seen as a negative thing.  But keeping in mind I’m not talking literally, and rather metaphorically and in an abstract way, it is possible to rid yourself of identity.  It simply means putting your differences aside, and seeing everyone as human.  Because low and behold, as animals, we protect our species, and when we realise that we are all human, we get the urge to protect us, each other.

Please also bear in mind, that I’m not condemning identity.  Identity is necessary because that is what creates societies.  Yet when identity can be misunderstood and abused.  When certain perceptions of an identity is used to label a whole category of people, or used as a reason to deny people’s rights, that is when I believe that identity can be dangerous, and it becomes even more important to get in touch with the inner human.  Identity is important, yes, but it does is not the complete definition of us.  Being human is.

Have a think over a nice cup of tea or coffee, and the next time you talk to someone, talk to them as a human, and see how far that might take you.

Have a great rest of the week! x.

PS. I HIGHLY recommend the books “The Book of Happiness” and “The Book of Joy” that have been mentioned above.  The message is universal, and it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s very important.  Take a look when you have the time.

 

How Simple is Living Simply?

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”

– Confucius

This is a question I ask myself often.  In the chaos of living in a city, and just living in this modern world, you hear the word “simple” being tossed around without really knowing what it means, and you tell other people you want to live a “simple life” without really knowing how to live that way.

A while back, I was talking to a friend, and we both agreed that those who commit their whole lives to “living simply” such as Monks, perhaps find it easier to do so primarily because it is their responsibility to do so.  This is not to undermine the strength and sacrifice that these Monks have gone through in order to achieve such a feat, but there is a truth to the thought that if it is your job to live a certain way, it makes it that much easier.  On the contrast, if you were a business man/woman living in New York, London, Tokyo or any bustling city, and ask them to try and live a simple life where one meditates every morning, has time for tea and further meditation in the afternoon, and living only with the bare necessities of life, it becomes a different story.  The business man/woman will find that he/she can’t always fit in meditation in the morning, might not always have time to have tea by himself/herself and might often find themselves being called up to a meeting at a last minute notice, and also find themselves unconsciously spending money for things they know they don’t really need, but need it at the time because they forgot to pack it in their suitcase.  This latter story is something that if you live in the modern world, you will be able to relate to.

Recently you see it more and more on social media with videos on how to live a minimalist life and living simply.  It’s become a dream that everyone strives towards, and yet there is one huge barrier that is in the way, which I think is why it’s so hard to achieve this “simple life”.  One word. Money.

I honestly believe that materialism and the simple life (minimalism) cannot go hand in hand.  So long as you are looking at money as something you need to buy things that you presume you need, the concept of simple living is not being fully understood.  Naturally, we no longer live in a hunter-gatherer world, we no longer go to the forrest to forage fruit and vegetables, and instead most of us (bar a lucky few who might own farms or have vegetable patches) have to go to supermarkets to buy food.  So yes, money is necessary to buy food.  So in that sense it does become a necessity.  I would also agree that money is necessary to live as part of the society for we all need to pay taxes and bills.  But then I’ll raise this question.  Setting aside the things that you definitely do need to pay for in order not to starve, or be sent to jail or to have a basic functional life, is this all you spend your money on?  The answer, probably, if you live in the modern world, is no.  At some point in time, you would have spent it on clothing, furniture, stationary, makeup, shoes, travel, kitchen good, honestly the list goes on.  And yet, while we spend our days in stores looking for something that we think we need  when in actual fact they are only things we want, we go around telling people about the dream to live a simple life.  Starting to understand this conundrum?

Living simply is not necessarily about living in a white walled terraced house, with plants and kitchen tiles made of marble.  It’s not necessarily about living in a wooden cottage that is surrounded by windows and has a “simple but homely feel”.  In other words, the concept of living simply has, much like everything else, been distorted.  Living simply, in actuality, may seem dirty, may seem extreme and it most certainly takes a lot more effort than setting up the furniture in the most picturesque way, because I believe that living simply is not just about how it looks, but more importantly, it is about a state of mind.

De-cluttering your room can help you feel a little more refreshed and clear-headed, but its also possible to be stressed and under pressure when living in an open space.  Why? Because your state of mind hasn’t been trained to think simply.  For this, it takes practice, because like the quote above, the mind likes to complicate things, when much of the problems we face have simple solutions.  Practicing the mind seems like such an odd concept, but it has really simple consequences.  It means that you no longer have to isolate yourself or move houses to try and live a simple life, you don’t need to completely refurbish your apartment, you don’t have to seclude yourself.  What you do need to do however, is to make time (even if its only 10 minutes of the day) to get in touch with yourself, and see the state you are in.  What you do need to be, is to be disciplined about it.  For those of us who are working in cities, it’s unrealistic to try and lead the quiet yoga-filled lifestyle of the Buddhist monks, and it’s just as unrealistic to try and lead the amazingly photogenic yogi lifestyle of some instagram accounts, just purely based on the fact that we have shit to do.

Yet despite this, I think this is the very beauty of life, that no matter how complicated the matter may seem, the answer is always very simple; you do or you don’t.  I’m trying my best to have a different perspective on money and material goods, and trying to de-clutter my mind before I de-clutter my space.  That way, the goals is not only arguably more achievable, but also more (hopefully) more sustainable.

Take some time, and jot down things you need, and things you want.  And think how you can help yourself think simply, and how you can then start to realistically change your lifestyle to be a little more simple.

 

Have a good weekend everyone x.

What mileage? What time? What running?

IMG_1120 (1)The point of running is not to break a time, but to test the limits of the human heart

Nike

I don’t need to repeat what hundreds of other blog posts write, on how (social) media has really influenced the way women (and men) see their bodies, and how we are constantly reminded that we need to do something to lead a healthier, happier, active life, whatever that means… does anyone, can anyone really tell me exactly what this means?

In this day and age, technology has come so far that everywhere we look, there are gadgets available to help motivate you, apps available to help you get into fitness easier and for cheaper. You can now also buy shoes and apparel that top athletes wear so that you too can run that bit faster and look good on your daily, weekly, monthly or yearly runs.  Don’t get me wrong, the accessibility of these items are amazing, and really helpful, especially when gyms can be expensive and hard to find. It’s especially great if you have the inner motivation to do keep this up every day. Unfortunately, most of us have more days where we are demotivated than we are motivated, and if that’s the case, then what’s the point of owning these expensive things? You have the heart rate monitor, you have the newest tracking watch or shoes, but if you don’t have the motivation to start, then you also, won’t have the chance to use them. Such a waste isn’t it?

I’m not going to lie, I went through a phase like this too. I bought a heart rate monitor, and a watch to go with it, bought a couple of new running shoes and gear and was really stoked. I downloaded running apps and signed up to a 10km run with the hope that it would make me fall in love with running. This lasted probably a couple weeks after I finished the race (so a total of give or take 6 months) before I no longer knew where my heart rate monitor and watch was and I only wore the running shoes on the way to my tennis training. Sad times. The problem I had with gadgets was that it always told you how fast you were going, at what pace, and the distance you covered. I used to really like that, but being a competitive person, when I couldn’t reach the goal or I was slower than expected because I wasn’t feeling good, it would affect my whole day, and was demoralising. Nevertheless I’ve tried and failed many times to get back into running, but I think I can say for myself and others (aside from actual runners), running is one of those things that you hate to do, but see it as a necessity.

And then I had a eureka moment during one of my classes on Buddhism I keep harping on about. It was a lecture on Buddhist monks who literally test the limits of their physical, mental, and psychological capacity by running distances longer than an marathon (up to 100km) every day… for  years.  Clearly these “marathon monks” (do look them up, it’s insane by incredible what they do) are out of their minds, but the reason they do this is twofold: first, is to be at one with nature (they run pretty much barefoot amongst the forests and countrysides. And two, to experience near death (they then fast and don’t eat, drink or sleep for a whole week after their running ordeals).  You might be wondering “how does this inspire someone at all?!”, well the answer is a little complicated.

Naturally, this is not the only reason I was inspired, but it certainly was an accumulation of Buddhist practices that intrigued me. It was the simplicity of embracing the pure humanness of the activity.  Buddhist monks live incredibly simply; without extra materials, with vegan food, and by running and meditating.  They focus on how to be human, they focus on the wonders of being human, and these “marathon monks” are a testament to the strength of the human body to carry on and cross a mental barrier where even when your whole body is screaming and tell you to stop, there is still 30% of energy within that can carry you home. It’s incredible if you think about it.

So how does this relate back to my running dilemma? Like this. I no longer count miles. I no longer time myself. I no longer put on headphones or use my phone. I don’t run to shape up. I don’t run as part of a training. I run purely to allow my body to tell me how it is feeling on the day, and for me to free my thoughts and relieve stress as I go.

I don’t use gadgets anymore because I don’t want this activity to be about competing, but about me being in touch with my body. When I run, instead of thinking of the pace I am going at, I now think about how incredible it is that my legs and arms can swing me forward unconsciously, how my heart is pumping the blood to keep my alive, and my lungs breathing in oxygen for my heart.  I think about how this synchronised repeated movement is making me feel at that moment; am I having difficulty breathing? Are my legs feeling heavy? And I adjust my pace accordingly so as not to force anything.

I don’t use headphones either anymore not just because I’ve realised it’s pretty dangerous, but also it’s much easier to maintain a good pace when you can hear your own breathing (sorry runners, this is probably old news to you). Yet it’s not just about the maintenance of the pace, but also this calming sensation you feel when you can hear the rhythm of your breath. And with this, my mind can wander off and think about life, and be reminded of the amazing human body, anatomy and all, and relieve the stress I have as I go. And it does relieve my stress because I’m not running faster or slower nor do I think about how far I’ve run and how long I have to go till I reach my house again.

With this, sometimes, I run only 10 minutes, sometimes I run for an hour. I have no idea the distance I’ve covered (although I have a sense because I’ve taken these routes before), and I can now say I know my body a lot better than before. I know how much sleep it needs, I know what kind of food it needs, and I know when it needs rest, and when it needs some stimulus. With this, I’ve come to have a whole new view on running, as something that isn’t training, but as something that calms the mind. Much like meditation or yoga. And I’ve found that once you stop seeing something as training, you stop seeing it as a burden, and when it’s not a burden or an obligation but a choice, it becomes much easier to keep on going.

 

Have a lovely day everyone, and free that mind. x

 

Because we are living in a material world, but I refuse to be a material girl.

Lets go back in time for this one.

Centuries ago, the industrial revolution was an amazing feat. Machines were being innovated and created to allow workers to make clothes, faster and more efficiently, and this was just the tip of the iceberg.  Who knew that centuries into the future, this industrialised society would become so vast, that it would end up becoming more of a problem rather than a solution.

Recently, the issue is becoming more prominent.  Just take a look around you and you’ll find documentaries like “True Cost” and increasing numbers of articles relating to ethical fashion that brings forth the issue of not only the environmental cost of fast-fashion (the concept of selling clothes at low prices, people buying hordes of clothes that only last one season and then throwing them away) but also the human cost too (workers in developing countries get extremely low pay in horrific conditions). Now I don’t want to dig too deep into advocating environmentalism and human rights issues here, as usual, I’d rather leave that to my studies, but I do wonder just how much longer the society can continue to focus on market competition and profits before these costs become too overwhelming. And that if and when the time, would it be too late?

I don’t want to continue and harp on about the problems, because problems will continue to be a problem until you find a solution. My solution right now is quite simple. I limit the amount of clothes I buy, and when I do buy clothes, I go to second hand stores. The good thing about this that I found, is that not only do I save money from limiting the number of items I buy, but as you may know, second hand stores are a treasure box of high-quality clothes (including quality brands) that are available for up to 75% of the original price. That’s a bargain if I ever found one. I’ve been doing this for about 2 months, now, and I won’t say it’s been smooth sailing either though. There are obviously some items of clothing: underwear, sports clothes, swimwear, that I am uncomfortable getting second hand.  In cases like this, I opt to buy from stores that I know are proactively environmentally and human rights-friendly. Naturally, it means that the prices go up maybe even twice as much as what I normally buy, but I do it nonetheless because I don’t have to feel guilty, and also, they use good materials, which means they last long.  And longevity in the end means that in the bigger picture, I actually save money.

This doesn’t only apply to clothing mind. I’ve de-cluttered my room and I’ve started to live as minimal a life as I can. It not only saves me money (which I realise I’ve repeated many a times, but I’m a student, so it’s hugely important), I have also started to appreciate what it is to just be human. Having enough, and nothing in excess has allowed me to appreciate the basic necessities and has also lessened the wishing-wanting-indulging-regretting cycle that sometimes comes with materialism. Having less things, have also allowed me to take care of each thing that I have even more, and also, in a weird way, even though I threw most of my stuff out, I’m more willing than before to share them with others.  Maybe it’s because in the end, the only things I kept were things that I truly loved.

Now, lets not get ahead of ourselves here, because I’m not a guru, I’m nowhere near an expert. There’s still a load of stuff in my apartment, but the point is, it’s a lot less than before. I still want to go on a shopping spree, and sometimes cave in and do so, but the point is, I’m doing it less. Making the effort, however small, can have significant affects on not just yourself, but also your surroundings, and it’s so important.

Nor am I suggesting that everyone should alter their lifestyle to this minimalistic one, but just imagine for a second, how intimately connected our lives are.  I didn’t understand it in the beginning, and sometimes still struggle to now, because I don’t see the direct connection.  The connection that means what I choose to buy and throw away, affects the lives of people thousands of miles away, for better or for worse.  The connection that the money I give to companies in good faith that all the employees are equally paid, may not be the case for the very basic fabric makers.  That because its not something I can see, it’s not present.  Unfortunately though, it is.  But fortunately, we can do something about it.

Question is, will you?

 

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. x

The Importance of Discourse

Moral principles require reasoning and discourse to discover the certainty of their truths; they lie not open as natural characters engraved on the mind.

-John Locke

Consider the above quote.

I don’t want to go much into politics, I’d rather leave that to my thesis, but at the same time, it’s also something that is slowly becoming unavoidable.  Presidents and Prime Ministers all over the world are becoming increasingly populist, with mandates to help the people, to make it seem like their voices are being heard.  But are they?

Take the unnecessary tragedy of the Grenfell Tower in London about a week back.  Take the uproar British PM Teresa May caused when she refused to talk to the victims of the disaster.  Take any religious/racial/gender conflicts happening not just on a wide scale, but even small arguments you might have about it with a friend, or see around the neighbourhood.  Or rather, take any disagreement, take any misunderstandings that have offended others or you.  Aren’t these all the result of the lack of discourse between each other?

So what is discourse? It’s just another fancy word for written or spoken communication.  It means talking to each other, exchanging opinions, and being open to new ideas.  Ancient Greek philosophers had a pretty good idea of it, seeing as because they placed importance on discourse, they believed that democracy (people power) would work.  I think it would, but if and only if everyone is willing to cooperate in discourse.

My point here, is not only that discourse is lacking in politics, and so there is such a huge disparity between what we vote for, and policies that are executed.  Or that the lack of political discourse means that more and more people are disappointed and discouraged to be politically active, which is actually something that is extremely necessary for a functioning society.  But that there is a lack of discourse in general in every day life.

How often do you sit down for a cup of coffee with a friend and talk about a controversial topic, or a subject you don’t agree on?  Even more important, how often do you sit down with someone you don’t really get along with and have a long conversation with them? It doesn’t happen because we avoid it.  We avoid it because it can makes us frustrated that the other person doesn’t see things in your way, or because to you, what they believe in is just unbelievable.  But the whole point of discourse, is so that you become more open to the fact that there are people who think and see things differently to you, and that its also important to think and see things for their perspectives.

And the base here, goes back to the human.  When you start to realise that you are speaking to another human being, that’s a step towards tolerance.  And the more questions you ask on why they think that way, what made them see things like that, you start to understand their reasoning and thought process and more often than not, you realise that it’s a logical conclusion they have come to.  This obviously works both ways, and the person you are talking to should be just as willing, open and tolerant to you too.  But by being mature, being curious and not judgemental, you realise why there is a difference of opinion, and you might even be able to come to a neutral conclusion of what you both agree to be true.

I honestly believe this is so important, not just on a political level, but on a banal level to. Our daily lives are shaped by communication, and if we as human beings can take that further to understanding each other, it would lead to a much more accepting, tolerant world.  Call me an idealist but I do think so.

 

Have a lovely day, full of deep, meaningful discourse. x

Also, to anyone who is interested, this TED talk is a great talk on this topic:

Help. My earphones broke. 

Such a privileged problem. My earphones broke, and now I cannot listen to music or cancel outside noise while I ride the train or cycle to school. My initial reaction to the so called “crisis” was to immediately buy new ones because “I need them”.
But let’s take a moment here.

In the end, It’s been 2 days since they broke, and I still haven’t bought new ones for a few reasons.

One, the day after, I realised how incessantly spoiled my thoughts were, and how those who live in the 1st world just have this automatic mindset that once something is broken or lost, you have to replace it immediately (on a side note, I don’t actually like the phrase “1st world problems” because there are just as many people who cannot afford bare necessities in the first world as there are in the 3rd world). But do you? When I asked myself just how necessary my earphones were, the true answer was, not necessary at all. What is necessary for me? Was my next question to myself, and the answer to that was: food, water, shelter, minimum clothing, education. All of which at least 1/3 of the world (that’s at least 1/3 of 8 billion people more or less) don’t have. When you come to terms with that, it is incredibly humbling. Why did I even think I needed earphones…earphones! In the first place?! Be more human.

Second, was the realisation of how I always cancel out noise, and how I mindlessly do this. And I don’t think this is just me. When I walk around in the city, at least 1 in 3 people I see walk around with earphones or headphones in. I think it’s become this security blanket, or at least it is for me, not to have to feel exposed to the outside world. When I’m outside, I put them in to avoid potential conversation, or not to have to endure a train ride listening to other people’s conversation. When I’m cycling, it’s a security blanket to save me from the silence and the continuous thoughts inside my head. In other words, music is helping me not to think, and not to converse.
Which leads to my third reason, which is the 2 days of not having earphones have been unbelievably productive. On the first day, i didn’t look at my phone as much because I didn’t need to, I was also a lot more aware of the dangers of cycling with earphones in, but at the same time got to my destinations quicker, and I was more aware of the people, the environment I was in, and got to enjoy the very banal things in life like eating lunch at a cafe, sitting on public transport and so on. The second day, not having the excuse to listen to music actually led me to turn off my phone completely for as long as it took to finish my essay. And it worked. I didn’t touch my phone until I finished, and it was probably the most efficient essay-writing time I’ve had. So basically, in the 2 days I realised that while music is great, it can also really limit your ability to get in touch with yourself and others, and also limit productivity. Be more human.

Another thing I’d like to point out, is that I wrote my essay yesterday in Starbucks, which is just so full of noise, but it didn’t bother me much at all. And I was so impressed by the ability of the brain to automatically cancel out noise when I am concentrating. Which seems like something I should have known as an athlete, but nevertheless, it was so surprising that my brain could do that under command.
So essentially what I am trying to say, is that our phones, laptops and music are all incredible privileges that we take for granted. We believe they are necessary to our everyday lives, and always feel the need to replace the gaping whole of not having something when it’s broken or lost. But truth is, we don’t really need it, or at least we can certainly continue to live without it. So I invite you to spend one day with something you feel you need; maybe your phone, maybe your laptop, or something as small as earphones. It makes us more human and it makes us more aware of our words and actions, and our thoughts, which initially may seem very scary, but in reality are all parts of what it means to be human. Be human, expose yourself and enjoy what you can see out there, and focus less on how you present yourself in here (here being the digital world).
I must admit that somewhere along the line I will buy new earphones, but not now, not yet, I’ve started to enjoy this scary exposure to the outside world. ✌🏼🌎