“Get off the mother flipping Xbox”. That is the first thing I can think of. In my younger years, I was very different from how I am now. I would game for many hours a day, now I haven’t played a console of my own for several years. It is is easy to have unhealthy obsessions like this in our young and potentially more naive years. That is okay for me as long as you are able to acknowledge it now and obtain healthier behaviours.
Maybe I am alone in this thought but I do not think that there is much that I would want to say if I could speak to my younger self. I try to look ahead to the future more than reflecting on the past. It would be far too easy for me to change a lot of things that went wrong. But I think things have to fall apart sometimes to make way for better things and to help you to learn and grow for sure. That being said, maybe one piece of advice I would have loved to hear is to work on my self-esteem so I can surround myself with better people.
I am a lot healthier mentally wise now than I have been in the past. I put that down to the self-growth, determination and fight that comes from not wanting to ‘relapse’ or return to a previous state of unhealthiness. When you have hit ‘rock bottom’ for whatever reason it may be, then you sure as heck do not want to go back. This is like being aware of your past and mistakes, but not allowing yourself to think about too much as it is gone and you cannot change it. I feel that it is important to recognise the past somewhat though, so I can realise how far I have come and to continue such progress.
I think my younger self would want to know what he is capable of as what I have achieved so far in my life. Our life is forever changing and it is important to move forward and not stagnate. He would want to know to hold out for meaningful friendships and to enjoy his time outside more.
Please share with me your feelings and what you would say to your younger self.
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.
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?
The term ‘Mature’ student makes me laugh sometimes, as I am probably only two years older than most of my compadres but it is what I am, nonetheless. In the UK most people start University at 17 or 18 but many also may starter later for various reasons such as having gap years for travelling. Whilst others may just have a change of heart in adulthood and want to study a degree. Whatever their reasons though, the mature student can still engage just as any other aged student would normally. I will discuss the life of a mature student with often examples from my personal experiences.
This is a huge one for many students but mature students also have the added weight of being older than their peers. This does not necessarily but generally means different interests as they are in different periods of their life. They might have a family of their own or a business on the side so they don’t have the time or interest to ‘party’. I have neither of these things but fitting in hasn’t overly bothered me, as I would prefer a small circle of friends with passions similar to mine. Partying is not my passion. I had a year or two of that which got boring for me as it is not in my introvert personality. I choose to ostracize myself on purpose so that I am not questioning my self-identity. I feel that as a mature student you are better equipped to deal with this concern, as you are not as impressionable as most teenagers.
Life isn’t just a party
There are many other clubs and societies where you can play sports or engage in fun and intellectual conversations. Sure they may have partying on the side but you are an adult who can choose whether or not to go. Maybe you’ve already done your fair share of waking up at 7 am hungover on someone’s bathroom floor? In that case, clubs and societies are a great way at any age for meeting people, as you already have one common interest with the potential to explore more of them. Also, I feel that it provides a stress-free environment for getting to know someone properly so that you can find out if you want to hang out with them more often.
A great opportunity to learn something new with a fresh mindset
At a young age people are often pressurized with “What do you want to be when you’re older?” or “Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years”. How on earth are we supposed to know this when the brain is constantly developing and we are undergoing a process of self-discovery? At least as a mature student, you have less stress put on you and instead have many experiences that can help you to choose an area of interest. From there you will have a better idea of what you want to study as you have had time out in the real world to experience it. Also for me, having had no gap years it is very exhausting to be in education for so long. I feel that we as individuals can either do our best work with some time off, or in a gap year we may learn it is not for us. Either way, you can come back the next year with a fresh mindset and challenge yourself in whatever adventure your life takes next.
I was so dead set on enjoying and making the most of my study abroad experience that I was doing my best to avoid any ‘homesickness’ or looking back to what I have left. I am determined to live in the moment here by focusing on what I have now whilst also looking forward to what I may have when I return home. That being said there are a few familiarities and comforts that I do indeed miss (alongside the obvious friends and family of course!).
In Sweden, I am enjoying some fine delicacies such as köttbullar (or meatballs if you wish) and kanelbulle that have been lining my stomach for many months now! But the variety of shops compared to the UK is much fewer here. And of course, the prices of food and groceries alike, are significantly higher here. I miss walking into Aldi on my way home after sport training and buying copious packets of 27p ‘knock-off’ jaffa cakes to see me through the week. In Sweden, there aren’t many variations of the same product I feel, but I know if I walked into an Aldi or an Asda for instance, I would be surrounded by a range of just the Mcvities brand!
There seems to be a running theme here… I like my food. Takeouts and restaurants are one of the biggest things that I miss. I like trying new things but I also like my familiarity as I know what I am getting from a place I’ve eaten before. From my local Chinese takeaway to Wetherspoons to my roast dinner. Oh gosh, I miss the comfort of my ‘Sunday dinner’ which was any day but Sunday (cheaper of course!). Nowadays, I am stuck ‘butchering’ chicken in the oven and serving up some frozen vegetables as a very questionable dinner. I know for sure, I will be stuffing my face with mixed grills and carveries when I get back. But also takeaways, as I haven’t eaten a single one in many months now.
I think it is safe to say a whole lot of us are missing sport right now. It is safe to say that I was enjoying going to Swedish football matches and playing badminton twice a week before things changed. What made me excited for the weekends is knowing that I could tune in to Aston Villa matches back home and scream away at my laptop like I was there. It was very comforting. Every time I saw a home match on I wished I could just transport back for those brief 90 minutes, be sat in my seat and wait for the stress to begin. I was also looking forward to the cricket season starting because I could watch some online and then dive straight into my summer of cricket once I fly back home. For now, though I must make do with Belarusian football and Taiwanese cricket on weekends!
This is one thing that I can kind of control thankfully. I may not get access to BBC iPlayer, ITV Player or 4OD out here and Netflix SE may not have the best and up to date content but it has plenty of great shows! I cannot count the number of shows I have been binging over these few months but I also like the comfort of British humour. I have been rewatching classics British comedies such as IT Crowd (which my flatmates have absolutely loved) and The Inbetweeners when I need a guaranteed laugh! Also luckily Netflix SE provides both seasons of Sunderland ‘Til I Die which I have watched in recent weeks. This combines my love of sport and English television which is very comforting. Nowadays I am watching After Life starring Ricky Gervais.
The wonders of travelling and sharing spaces with international people bring a vast range of cultural and musical differences. It is interesting getting to know what music other people like and how far the interest of ‘British music’ or certain artists travels around the world. In recent weeks I have made my British playlist (https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1ru05UlaiXoVWFhlewufrj) just to remind myself of the many talented – mainly alternative rock bands that exist/ed. Sadly I haven’t had as much contact with Swedes as I expected, so my knowledge of Swedish artists and groups does not go much further than Abba. Thankfully I have picked out a few random songs from my dance classes that I was adding as part of a Nordic playlist that needs some more work from me (https://open.spotify.com/playlist/40rWBY4ri2iVhApWq4oi5b). Therefore, I am stuck with my very English music that probably not many people know of here.
I am perplexed at how expensive things are in Sweden after being quite luckily with cheaper products, food etc in England. Things such as alcohol, potatoes, paracetamol, bowling and BREAD. Yes, quite possibly the strangest shopping list you’ve ever seen? But my oh my, bread… It perhaps has more of a flavour over here but the cost is insane! Gone are the days of finding a reduced Warburtons loaf in Co-op and sticking it in the freezer!
I have some questions for my readers. What do you miss when you are out of your home country? How do you deal with this?
It has been around five weeks now since I arrived back in Malmö after my amazing skiing trip to Tänndalen. However, a lot has changed with this pandemic, which means this period of my study abroad is extra significant. It is a time where so much change happened and one I will never forget, for a vast range of reasons.
Before the trip I was very consumed with finishing my work, settling into Swedish lifestyle, making friends and the trip I was most terrified about. What I was at the time sure of was that if I could do all of this and manage well, on the other side of the skiing trip I had an amazing few spring and summer months of exploration ahead of me. This unexpectedly changed what with, most of the people I had gotten to know being forced home sadly, before I could truly get to know them. As well as the deep concern about travelling, as I am avoiding public transport (walking everywhere is very tiring since I cannot cycle).
I find myself very depressed that a time I was so excited for, and worked so hard for, changed so abruptly. What I find even more difficult is that Sweden is taking a very unique approach to handling the corona virus with no real enforced lock down, so to speak. I decided to stay here in Sweden as at the time I felt it was the safer option to do, and out of respect for others and to protect myself, I am near enough living as though there is a lockdown. I generally only go out when I need to and I am distancing myself from others.
I am fortunate enough to still be on my study abroad experience but I am also devastated that it is and won’t be how I always dreamed of it. For now I am unable to travel around Sweden as I intended to, and I am generally limited to wherever I can walk to right now. I am still enjoying the parks which Malmö has in abundance. I wish now I hadn’t spent so much time enjoying them in the winter months though and instead moved around the country more and explored more.
I’m not a person who agrees with having regrets, but even with this unplanned pandemic I am scared I will have had too many. For now I am grateful I was able to have the wonders of the skiing trip… which was once my biggest fear, could now be my greatest experience.
One phenomenon I have never been able to identify with is the concept of ‘guilty pleasures’. Are societal norms that overpowering that we feel guilty for our own likes and interests? What is so bad or shameful about being different, and having different views?
Whatever it might be, for example art, music, sport or television, it is all subjective. What one person enjoys can vary between different individuals and in similar vain with what we dislike. You might really like hockey or country music which are two things I am not overly fond of. But am I right in belittling your taste? Absolutely not. It is perfectly fine to appreciate those with different tastes.
But to feel belittled is exactly what can happen from a clash of two tastes. I firmly believe people become so afraid or insecure over their interests, that they end up categorising their love of ‘Taylor Swift’ or ‘reality tv shows’ as silly or ‘guilty pleasures’ if you will. This is generally to prevent people making fun of them for any potential unconventional interests, that society has taught them to mask out of fear of embarrassment.
When it comes to ‘guilty pleasures’ I for one hate to get bogged down in what social norms have been pre-determined for us, especially when it comes to gender. From my time in mainstream clubbing the concept of ‘a cheese room’ generally attracts female attention to hear these ‘guilty pleasures’. But I am generally the one dragging my friends into these rooms to hear some Westlife or Peter Andre. If there is something that you like then you must appreciate it for all its glory, rather than hide it from fear of judgement. So crank up some Nickelback and savour it!!
Please comment your favourite ‘guilty pleasures’ or even better… what you’re not afraid to love!!
A blog for documenting my personal life experiences and thoughts featuring a pun from my avid interest in sport.