At a glimpse, this may appear as two different words. But to me and many others, they could not be anymore different. As a guy who likes to spend time by himself, but also enjoy the company of others I wish to share some of my thoughts around this.
I feel that a lot of people think being ‘alone’ is a bad thing. Many people seem co-co-dependent in other way… Like they need someone around to enjoy themselves, or feel safe and secure. For instance, you will see that these people are ashamed of going to the movies alone or a concert. But perhaps we can truly let go and enjoy ourselves when we have the freedom to explore autonomously. Just because you are surrounding by lots of people, it does not make it comforting. Sometimes for me at least, being in a packed room with no one understanding me is the most loneliest feeling of all. Much lonelier than in laying in your bedroom in the dark for sure.
Why do people seem so worried about being alone though? Maybe they are afraid of judgement for not being ‘normal’. But what is normal anyway? Where is the fun of achieving this impossible feat? And how do people avoid this feeling of loneliness? Maybe they think they are safe from this feeling because of their popularity on social media. But maybe they are just showing the world the person he/she thinks it wants, rather than what the person themselves want. Not portraying yourself accurately as the unique individual you are… That is the biggest concern for me, especially when it comes to loneliness. Be yourself and the people good for you will come along. That is for sure what I can say in my case.
As for being ‘alone’ itself, this is something I have become very accustomed to. I feel confident and independent enough to be able to spend time with and enjoy myself. Sure, being with people for certain activities is more entertaining but I will not miss out because I do not have someone to share that with. Being around people constantly is just not healthy in my books, no matter how extroverted you are… We all need a little time to ourselves to reflect and recharge. This is just natural.
Spending time alone does not have to be a bad thing. Many activities I find can be just as, (if not more) enjoyable alone than with company. This is when you feel your passion or interest in something is different to the person you are with. Or when you both are different views or interests for whatever reason. Just make sure what ever you are doing you are comfortable with yourself, and do not feel isolated. Enjoy time with others and take time to relax for your own good and mental health.
Six months ago yesterday I took only my second ever journey outside of the UK. I had flown to Copenhagen, for my semester abroad in Malmö, Sweden. My semester has long finished but surprisingly I am still there. My summer is not how I envisioned it, but that does not have to be a bad thing. Different is sometimes good. But what have I been doing?
January – I arrived halfway into January thankfully so I think I missed the worst part of the dark Swedish winter. I was greeted with a blue sky and sun for the first few days, which was apparently a shock. During this time I was filled with excitement for my classes and meeting new people. The time I think I felt an unexpected culture shock, but I would like to think I adapted quickly enough.
February – The month of sightseeing in my case. It was cold but that does not stop Swedes from being outside. I visited many parks and football games. I kind of regret this time slightly due to the pandemic. I was exploring my own city whilst I was still getting to know my surroundings. I wish I had explored more as the upcoming two months or so meant I had not much to do. Around the time the pandemic really started to kick in was when I was planning to start travelling. I did manage to catch Malmö vs Wolfsburg in the Europa League though. That was cool. Despite the 3 nil loss for Malmö.
March – The month everything changed so drastically. I was petrified of the skiing trip but I ended up loving it. It became an important part of my semester abroad, especially as it was a turning point. It finished a day early due to corona kicking in. It was a tiring week, but by the end of it and for many weeks after, I simply did not want it to end. An unforgettable experience in Tänndalen.
April – The new beginning? My new course of ‘Outdoor Pedagogy’ had begun and despite the pandemic, thanks to our small class size we were able to still hold a few outdoor classes. I was able to spend time in parks I had been before, but also experience new places such as Skrylle near Dalby. These lessons were valuable to my sanity at the time, as I was not getting out much. I have never been so grateful to have a class in my life, and I do not think I ever will.
May – Not too dissimilar to April really. The odd class here or there and lots of cold/tolerable days at the beach. The sights were beautiful when the days were blue and sunny. I was focused on finishing my studies with work due early June.
June – Officially the start of my summer holidays. In the picture to the left is Dalby Stenbrott (Quarry) where I had my first proper swim in Swedish waters. It was cloudy and FREEZING, with no saunas insight. But it was beautiful and I was glad I finally did it. Since I have swum in much warmer conditions at various beaches in and around Helsingborg. Lots of adventures had in Skåne this month, most notably relaxing at beaches.
July (So far…) – The adventures are only just beginning. I recently bought this summer card that gives free entry to certain places and discounts to others. It has already paid for itself in two visits to some lovely Botanical gardens. There is so much nature in which I intend to explore more.
I hope I have many more fascinating stories to tell you and I hope even more that you will continue this journey in reading along with me.
University can be the first real sign of independence a young eighteen or so year old may get in their life. With lots of exciting opportunities and experiences to be had, it can make managing money extremely difficulty. I am not saying that you have to plan out every single penny or turn into Alan Sugar over night, but start to think what purchases are necessary and even budgeting. Can really eat dominoes three times in a week? Maybe you can, but your wallet may not digest the news as well as you. Also see if your accommodation is paid automatically and have your student loan installments paid in smaller more frequent periods. This will encourage you from over spending so you have money for common necessities!
Fitting in is overrated
Everyone talks about university and that making friends is so easy and important. This is not always the case in my opinion, especially if you have a disability. If you have this and issues of self-esteem it can make it difficult to make good friends, or many at all. Do not worry if you do not hit it off with people straight away. The people you meet instantly at freshers events are not always the people you will find yourself around afterwards. You will have 3+ years to meet people, so be patient and be yourself… The right people for you will come along eventually, if you stay true to yourself.
Homesickness is normal
Almost everyone will feel homesickness at some point. This may happen a lot more in your first year as you get used to living away from home and being more independent. For me having autism means that I require more time than the average person to get familiar with my surroundings. But I promise you that it gets easier over time. Disability or not, you will need time to adapt and that is perfectly okay. I recommend exposing yourself to the independence more by staying at university during the weekends – maybe even explore your new home. I notice that first years especially are quick to go home for the weekend as soon as their classes finish. I feel that this makes it easy to get used to your surroundings and truly become independent.
Get into a good routine
Freshers events are generally every night and although they may be tempting, they will soon take the energy out of you. I see people going to every event and wonder, where do they get this energy from? This I feel can get you into a bad routine and bad habits. Start as you mean to continue I say. Have your fun but also organise and prepare yourself. Go to all your classes as it will give you the best chance of passing your course. Do not miss out on valuable classes and do not get your head into thinking ‘this lecture is not important’. They will all serve some kind of purpose at some point, and you can learn new things even if they are not particularly relevant to your assignment at the time.
Not everyone has the time, facilities or ability to engage in copious or strenuous physical activity. With that in mind I will describe five short and simple ways that you can engage in physical activity so that you can maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
Walking Possibly the simplest form of physical activity, yet the most inclusive of all ages and abilities. Even though the heart rate is lower, it is still great for improving cardiovascular and pulmonary. ‘10,000 steps’ is the magical number but do not take this too literally… It can be so stressful to maintain this that you do not do any steps at all. Do as many as you can as that is still an achievement, and will, of course, benefit you more than sitting on that couch playing call of duty.
Yoga Yoga, pilates and similar activities are great for not only engagement and relaxation of the mind but the body too. What is great about this is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home with little space. This is great for anyone but especially if you have any insecurities about exercising in public. You can find a long list of exercises and videos on google on YouTube.
Throw and catch a ball Another one you can do from home if you do not mind damaging your walls… Throw and catch the ball against the wall or another object. Use your imagination. Great for passing time and developing your coordination and motor skills. Also, little equipment required and you can adapt it easily.
Take the stairs Get preparing for your return to work with copious amounts of stairs, by ditching the elevator for your stairs at home. Stair climbing can be a great aerobic workout and muscle builder, whilst putting less pressure on the body than running. Also, you do not need anything to do this exercise, except to not live in a bungalow!
Cycling As long as you have a bicycle and the required protective gear then you are ready to go. Great for building muscle and improving cardiovascular fitness. Of course a great calorie builder also. But most importantly it provides fun whilst exercising (how it should be if I may add!). You control the speed, the terrain and the location. Cycle with company or alone and find a nice spot to take a breather and relax.
Exercising is incredibly important to a healthy lifestyle. Do not over complicate it as exercise can be as simple as this. Do what you can and do not worry what others are doing. Focus on your own exercise habits and developing them positively, towards a better life.
LIVE IN THE MOMENT. I mean, I always try to do this. But it does not come without difficulties. It is too easy to get tangled up in the past or to have two eyes on the future, what with all the pressure we face in our everyday lives. This year though, more than any I have started to realise the importance of just enjoying the present day. I guess part of this is due to the pandemic and the realisation that things are unpredictable and can change at any moment.
It is nice to have some kind of an eye on the future though, so you have a rough idea of where you are headed. But as plans change and your interests develop, we do not always know the path we will end up on. We can strive for a certain goal or path and in fact, end up taking off to a different destination. We cannot change the past, we cannot ALWAYS predict our future. I feel that the one thing we can do though is to make sure we enjoy our time right now.
It is a hard thing to do though I must admit when you feel or know that something can change. But if you are constantly waiting for that change, you are rapidly losing the time and moment. The best thing you can do in my opinion is to enjoy the things happening to you right now for what they are, as they may not last forever. Happiness is the key, and why let it wait?
For me, my plans have changed significantly due to COVID-19 but that does not have to be a bad thing. I never thought I would be studying abroad in my life and I certainly did not imagine being here so long. But the choice to do it and to stay in Sweden has paid off. I now get to experience a Swedish swimmer after braving the cold and windy months earlier in the year. This is just one example of living in the moment and trying to make the most of a different situation.
Many are aware of toxic relationships with their partners, but I feel that not near enough attention has been given to toxic friendships. Both share similarities in that they can provide important people in your life that are hard to say goodbye to. But what we should really do is be aware of the signs and the strange behaviours, so that we are surrounded by the best possible people. Because of this, I want to discuss and point out potential red flags that you may miss.
They bring out a strange side of you.
It is healthy to come out of your comfort zone of course. But with a ‘toxic friend,’ this can be a very different and quite negative side of you that feels strange and actually. You may start changing your behaviours, having bad habits or doing things you do not normally do. For instance, if that is constant drinking, or smoking or gossiping. A lot of this for me at least feels so toxic and I would prefer to avoid those who overindulge in such things by distancing myself altogether.
They are not grown up enough to admit their mistakes. This person never seems to be in the wrong, or at least in their mind. They may make you feel guilty and trying to reason with them can feel like talking to a brick wall. They always have excuses for their behaviours and are blaming others. We are adults by age now, so it is time to start acting like it. Putting your hands up and saying ‘sorry’ is not that difficult.
They are not there for you… especially when it counts!
This is arguably the biggest and most obvious red flag there is, but for some reason, many people seem to miss or ignore it. It is a friend who makes everything about them. The one you will do a favour for or quickly jump to save them in some form. But when the tables are turned you are left to pick up the pieces without them. If they are making excuses, then maybe its time to question the integrity of the friendship.
All of these factors can severely affect your mental health, especially your self-esteem. For someone who has or has experienced low self-esteem then spotting these red flags can be pivotal to living a healthier lifestyle. At least for me, I have found comfort in improving my self-esteem as I have been able to choose better friends, who do not exhibit such behaviours. I find it is better to cut ties with toxic friendships to feel healthier and allow yourself more time and energy towards yourself and your good friends.
Please let me know if you liked this article and are interested in part two. There are still so many more signs and red flags to share.
Life is a constant cycle of making mistakes and learning from them. As quite a philosophical person, I am always wondering and reflecting on my experiences. Here I will list some life lessons that I think are very useful and even potent to me.
It is okay to not have everything ‘figured out’ – Life is not a sprint, it is more like a marathon. But with social and various other pressures from a very young age, most of us seem forced into certain things or ‘norms’, especially for our age. There is no rush to drive as soon as you reach the legal age, nor is it awful if you do not have or know your dream job. In school there is pressure to decide your future immediately. I feel that confining someone to a specific area so quickly just kills ones flexibility and creativity. Are we mature enough at 15-16 to decide our whole future? I think not. The age old saying ‘where do you see yourseslf in five years?’ comes to mind. How many of us now are doing what we thought we would be five years or ago, or more?
Learn from mistakes – I realise that it is okay to make mistakes and in fact admitting or confronting them is one of the first steps to self-growth. What I find important to remember is that a mistake is only a mistake if you do not learn from it. You can start to realise what you did was wrong and change or adapt, which can help improve your maturity and efficiency. Try not to be so scared of failing or falling and take the steps to move towards self-growth. Don’t dwell on the past or past mistakes as that has happened now. You can instead change your future so similar mistakes do not happen.
Put yourself first – Maybe this one seems controversial or selfish, or at least some people will want you to believe it is. But to me, putting yourself first is one of the most valuable things you can do in life. Take yourself seriously and you will notice an increase in your self-esteem. That is what I experienced and it is so rewarding. I find myself about to pick better friends and have fewer insecurities.
Pick your friends carefully – This can be a very tough one in my opinion, but it is extremely useful to consider. When I am able to put myself first and benefit from an increased self-esteem, I notice that I can attract better company. I firmly believe this is down to the more positive energy I am portraying and the belief I am worthy to these people. It is important to be surrounded by good energy from people you can trust and that support your growth. If you are noticing bad energy or red flags then perhaps you must question if this ‘friend’ is holding you back, rather than pushing you forward.
This is an area I am very passionate about. Let me know if you enjoyed it and would like to see more life lessons. Also I would love to hear your life lessons in the comment section below.
Social media can be a very toxic place which begs the question “is it really worth it?” to me. I cannot even begin to describe the countless times that I have considered deleting all or some of my social media. I look now at my phone and see the endless lists of apps; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. I begin to wonder, is this all necessary? Would my health be significantly better if I packed it in, and lived more outside of the internet and my phone?
I always wonder if I could make do with just one or two social media apps. But one thing that makes it hard for me to follow through with this is that I think each one serves some kind of purpose. I wonder if just Facebook would be enough for me, as I have the majority of my friends there and can share blog and social updates as well as photographs. It is important to me that I document my life, especially with my study abroad experiences. But is there a better way I can do this whilst protecting my mental health?
I firmly believe I am a lot more stable now and have much better friendships, which makes me worry less about being on social media. That being said, the negative elements of social media cannot simply vanish, not for me or others so easily. The constant jealousy or insecurities as people compare themselves to one another. It can be exhausting and depressing. What I find particularly awful is how ‘normal’ it is to just scroll through social media out of boredom… Because I wonder if this can lead to isolation and depression if people are reading bad things online, or seeing others have fun. It goes both ways and can affect a persons mood significantly.
At what point do we need to switch off for a while? What benefits do you think exist for living offline or reducing ones time on, or online presence?
I am five months into my study abroad experience and although I have finished my studying for this year, I wanted to share some of my survival tips for managing the experience. I hope those thinking of studying abroad are encouraged by this post and those who have studied abroad can share some of their survival tips in the comments. In this article are just a few tips but I have so many more. Let me know if you enjoy this post and if you want to see a part two. Anyway lets get into the article…
Learn the language – English is the most widely spoken language worldwide but that doesn’t mean you should not learn the native language of the country you will be studying in. There is a very good chance you can ‘get by’ with English, but to be polite and improve your experience it is beneficial to learn some of the new language. I would admit that I am guilty of not doing this and not learning has made interactions such as shopping or ordering food difficult, or at least socially awkward. If you struggle with languages, learn the basics so that you can hold an interaction with someone and appear willing and polite.
Join a club – Making friends can be very difficult, especially for me… I recommend joining a club as you immediately find a bunch of people with a common interest. For me this was Badminton which I was playing twice a week before my University closed due to the pandemic. It felt like a good release of energy whilst engaging with other people in a very social sport, with friendly players. Maybe sport is not your thing, but there are plenty of other clubs and I guarantee there is something for everyone.
Don’t forget your friends back home – It can be an important time to meet new and intriguing people but don’t forget about those who were there for you first. That does not mean that you have to talk to them day in day out as you want to experience this exciting new lifestyle, but to simply catch up with them as often as you think is acceptable. If they are a good friend then they should understand that and encourage you to formulate these amazing experiences. Your friends back home will be one of the first to greet you with open arms and ready to hear all about your amazing experiences. Treat them kindly.
Give yourself time – It is wishful thinking to get on a plane and expect everything to work out immediately. There are so many new things such as language, place and people, that you are effectively starting a new life (for how ever many months or so you will be studying abroad). There is a good chance you will be nervous and even cry, or wonder what the heck you are doing in this foreign country. These are all normal emotions and ones that I experienced myself. But I can assure you that it gets better and you will start to live the abroad experience you envisioned, and more. For me this was heavily impacted by the pandemic which knocked my confidence, but I strongly believe in a normal year, things would have been much easy. Time is key to allowing ourselves to understand and adapt.
Last year I shared with you six extremely underrated tracks from my all time favourite band Green Day. ICYMI, there is an opportunity to read it here https://lifeistoo.sport.blog/2019/03/17/6-underappreciated-tracks-from-green-day/ With over 30 years worth of songs with many unreleased or even known to casual fans, there has come a time where I want to share some more of these tracks with you. I hope that you can take the time to freshen your mind by listening to them for the first time, or rekindle your love for them if you have heard them before.
When it’s time
First of all, I cannot believe this track released officially in 2010 did not feature on this original post, but, I can be excused with Green Day’s extensive back-catalogue of songs. This soft, acoustic number is a beautiful track that was originally written around 1992 during The Kerplunk era as “they didn’t have enough sappy songs”. You can find the original, raw version of it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCt0rSD5Ds8 The song was recorded in 2004 but did not make the cut for American Idiot. But this refined version can be found on the American Idiot: The Original Broadway Cast Recording. The song was a staple in the set, during most setlists of their 2010 tour. I haven’t quite heard another Green Day song like it, and I just cannot stop listening to it. If there was one main underrated song I would love to share with all Green Day fans, then it is ‘When it’s time’.
Too much too soon
Too much too soon features as a bonus track on the deluxe version of Green Day’s 2004 album ‘American Idiot’ and is believed to have been written for ‘Cigarettes and Valentines’- the stolen album that would have been the follow up to 2000’s ‘Warning. American Idiot is an album packed full of excellent songs that Green Day continue to play live to this day. Too much too soon has not been played live from my knowledge. The song itself will not set the world alight so it is understandable that it was not picked for the main album, but it does offer a simple yet catchy song in the sound style of American Idiot.
Stay the night (acoustic)
Originally from Green Day’s ninth album ¡Uno!, an acoustic version of ‘Stay the night’ was released on the 2014 compilation album Demolicious, for Record Store Day that year. Honestly, it took me a while to like this version it and may take you a few listens too. But this tuned down version of such an upbeat track is so beautiful. It is raw and honest, and it makes me listen to the song with a whole new perspective. A must listen.
Restless Heart Syndrome
Restless Heart Syndrome, the 13th track on Green Day’s eighth album ’21st Century Breakdown’. I feel that this whole album was incredibly underrated, as people seem keen to compare it to the timeless classic of American Idiot. They are both considered as rock-operas and 21CB is the successor to American Idiot, but the tracks must be appreciated for what they are. Restless Heart Syndrome is a song that has not been played live in eight years, so I am not sure how many new Green Day fans will know it. But it is my favourite track from 21CB and I highly recommend it.
I hope you enjoyed part two. Now you have ten amazing Green Day songs to listen to. Please share how many you already knew and liked, or even disliked? I am interested to hear your thoughts as always.