The Smart Modern Woman’s Guide to… getting over someone you never even dated.

That time I tried to get over someone I never even dated, it took me nearly three years.

Maybe this sounds creepy, so I’m going to clarify. Getting over someone isn’t as much a daily thing as it is a subconscious, lurking-in-the-back-of-your-mind-and-jumping-out-when-you-least-expect-it thing. When I say I spent nearly three years trying to get over someone I never dated, I don’t mean I spent every single day of that time stalking them online, or messaging them, or stalking them and then messaging them with the information I found from stalking. It’s more about your headspace in the long run. I can be okay for a week, and then suddenly think about them again, and think about how I’ll die alone, and nobody will find my body until my neighbours start to complain about the smell of my decaying corpse.

Way back when, I was on the brink of dating someone, and then I destroyed it. It got awkward, because we were in high school and still had classes together, and we sat in the same cluster of tables for one of those classes. And I had said no because I was afraid, not because I didn’t like them. They were very kind. They said, okayI still really like you, but I’m going to try to sort that out. I said, okay, I’m really sorry. I thought, great. I’ve just ruined my own life again.

I’m not sure what happened for them, but spent the next two and a half years actively pining for them on-and-off. Being a human being is complicated, so even though we never officially dated, I still felt some raw gnawing in my heart, kind of like that feeling you get when your heel gets being repeatedly scraped against a pair of new shoes and the skin is coming off. Gross. And uncomfortable.

Long story short, I only managed to get over them when I met someone new. Never dated that new person either, just pined after them because they were a bit older and I never had luck with anyone romantically anyway. My friends used to say that I was great at the platonic, and a disaster at the romantic. It is true to this damn day. Anyway, that person was so cool, so poised, and so intelligent; they were straight-up magic. It was like I was a homeless cat, and they were a bag of fresh cat-nip, sprinkled all over a grave in an Upper East Side cemetery, saying, come hither, kitty. Roll around in emotional compost. So of course I did exactly that. Instantly, I was smitten. And I thought: I definitely am not going to approach them, because I’m a coward. So I kept them at arm’s length for a few years, thinking about them a lot and feeling the strongest sensation of: God, I’m so in love with you, I could drop dead right now, if only to be at your feet.

(So far, we know these things about me: I’m a coward, and also, I tend to forget about the people who like me just so I can chase after people who don’t. So I’m a coward, and an idiot. Are you keeping up? Great.)

So. I’ve had my fair share of bumbling about, being hopelessly in love with very specific people for long periods of time. Not the best use of my energy, but it’s that or getting drunk. (Drinking too much actually breaks me out, so maybe I have been doing myself a massive favour this whole time.) Anyway, I guess even if you’re not actively thinking about someone all the time, it is exhausting to perpetually admire someone. It’s like being wrung dry emotionally, and then being hung up to air like washing, and you just don’t know what to do with yourself.

I’m not saying getting over someone is going to be easy, because if it were, then I wouldn’t be writing this. I would be out there lying on a patch of grass in a spot of sun, thinking about what to eat for lunch tomorrow. But I just want to say: if your smart modern brain chemicals can lead you to it, then they can lead you through it. Hard as this journey will be, you’re just going to have to get through it, because you’re wasting time and energy.

Also, it sucks, okay? It just sucks, and it’s going to keep sucking, because you know you aren’t going to act on your feelings so it’s just going to be this disgusting conglomerate of fatty tissues in your coronary artery, clogging everything up. And you know that if you don’t remove it, it’s going to kill you. Yet at the same time, you’re not on a great health insurance plan, and this is open heart surgery.

Behold, for this is where I swoop in with my totally unsolicited, extremely unqualified advice. I’m that shady backdoor self-proclaimed plastic surgeon and I’m here to make it all better.

(Note: if you like someone and you’re going to act on it, these aren’t tips for you. Get out of here, you sane person. These are tips for those of us who are so delusional and far gone that I’m going to have to use a drain snake to fish out of the murky, murky sludge. If that sounds like you, keep reading.)

DON’T BLOCK THEM; JUST MUTE THEM.

Closure is a lie. Everyone says you need to say goodbye to them in some monumental way, like blocking them online, but I’m here to say: NOPE. You don’t need to block them. If their name is constantly popping up and that makes you sad, just mute them. I recommend this because when you finally do get over them, they’re not out of your life forever. Which will be nice, because after all, you were just experiencing heavy emotional turmoil, and blocking them would’ve made your internal breakdown realer. It’ll also be more awkward if you block them and you have to see them regularly in real life, because then they’ll be like – hey, uh, why did they block me? What did I do wrong? Nothing. You did nothing wrong, bar having been born so perfect.

DON’T ESTABLISH ANY CONTACT WITH THEM.

On the opposite end of the closure spectrum is you thinking you need to message them to see what is going on in their life right now. You think: maybe if I find out how they are now, I’ll be content, and stop thinking about them forever. It’ll be quick and easy! NOPE. It will be slow and difficult, because here’s how it will actually go down: you’ll spend two hours crafting a message that is just innocuous-sounding enough, and then you will spend the rest of your day anxiously waiting for their reply. Don’t put yourself through that. I know you don’t think it’s true, but you deserve better, because you are a Smart Modern Woman. So just leave them alone.

THROW YOURSELF INTO YOUR WORK.

This sounds so obvious, but if you keep busy, then eventually, you will rewire your brain into thinking that your work is the one you should be infatuated with. It takes some time and a lot of effort, and being employed is a prerequisite, but if you stick with it, you will soon find yourself masturbating to – not the person you have a crippling crush on – but the thought of buying a new label-maker. And this will solve all your problems in life, because you can actually go out and buy a new label-maker, because you are a Smart Modern Woman with a steady income.

WATCH A LOT OF TV.

Since we’re onto rewiring our brains, this one is for the unemployed. That’s not your fault, the economy is a mess, and having a Bachelors Degree means next to nothing these days. Instead of stalking them online, scour the Internet for a new TV show to binge! Then stay in bed and don’t move until you’ve watched everything. By the time you’re done watching all of THE OFFICE in five days, you will have lost your grip on reality, but also your crush. All I can say is, you win some and you lose some. Life is not perfect, and we make do with what works, even if we cause some brain damage along the way.

BUT IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MEET SOMEONE NEW.

Only so you can repeat the whole damn infatuation process again. Do this if you’ve just read the list and realised you cannot be cured, that you were made in such a way that you’ll always be pining after someone you can’t have. If you’re this kind of person, then I’m sorry; it’s going to be a hard life. But let’s hear it once more: you are a Smart Modern Woman. So you can still be savvy about it. Get more bang for your buck by choosing someone more worthy of your one-sided affection. Don’t waste your life smitten with a 7/10 when you can fall for a 10/10. It’s called having standards.

That’s that. I’ve said all I wanted to say, and I can only hope it helps. Being in love can be great, but right now, it is terrible. So either try to get into that great state, or learn to be okay with the terribleness. Either way, you are a Smart Modern Woman, and whatever happens, it is your prerogative.

Good luck!

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I’m in a better place than I was two weeks ago because I binged KILLING EVE.

Hi, hey, hello.

I don’t know what my blog is for anymore. Documenting personal growth? Yes. Discussing personal failures? Sure. Dissecting personal traumas? Plenty of that. And now that I’m about to review a book and the TV show based off it, I’m thinking, why not? It’s not like I have anything to lose.

So here goes: KILLING EVE, originally in book form CODENAME VILLANELLE by Luke Jennings, is a (relatively) new spy-thriller/drama on BBC America. It is written by the superbly talented and hilarious Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and stars the legendary Sandra Oh as MI6 agent Eve Polastri and the exquisite Jodie Comer as psychotic Russian assassin Villanelle.

Don’t tell me your own eyes aren’t sparkling right now, your pupils dilated, having read that previous paragraph. Also: there are no spoilers in my post, so you can keep reading.

I first came across the show (I talk as though that was ages ago, but really, it was two weeks ago, tops) after I had finished my second year exams. Not knowing what to do with my newfound freedom, I had just binged Season 9 of MODERN FAMILY and was making my way through a re-watch of LOVE on Netflix. As you can see, I have a lot of time on my hands. I want to be able to say that as a part of a demographic called youths, I lead a more interesting life. But I do not. So let’s not bullshit each other and get to it.

I’ll talk about KILLING EVE first. The show. It is absolutely magnetic, and both Sandra and Jodie deliver. They were FedEx couriers, leaving your parcel in the safe place you asked, instead of driving away and telling you to trek seven miles to your nearest collection point to pick it up because you were not home. Sandra and Jodie’s performances were subtle, yet powerful, and I wish I could pelt Emmys at them. But that would hurt, and anyway, I’m not in charge of giving out Emmys, so that plan falls flat. But the sentiment is there.

I’m usually very selective about watching thrillers/drama/police-criminal stuff on TV, just because a lot of the time, they get too dark and serious and profound for their own good. And I’m generalising, but I think it’s safe to say they are also not very visually appealing. The colour palette of those shows is often navy/grey/black because they only ever have men at the forefront of the action, and all of them wear suits, which makes everything come across as uninspiring and possibly sleep-inducing.

Yet KILLING EVE is not like that at all. Sure, the premise is still a spy chasing down a criminal. But it pulsates with its own energy, and this cat-and-mouse game Eve and Villanelle play is intense and exciting. These are two women who know what they’re after, who get shit done, who feel entitled to be where they are in their career. And they’re allowed to be entitled, because they’ve earned this entitlement – one through being a brilliant spy, the other through slashing throats and creating a literal bloody mess. There’s so much build-up to each scene, and the suspense and thrill of it all are ever-present. The show doesn’t shy away from Villanelle in action – once she jabs a target in the eye unblinkingly – but it also retains its sense of mystery by sometimes only showing the aftermath of a killing. You see a hospital room with four bloody corpses, and from that you decide how she got the job done. So, no. It doesn’t spell anything out for you, because the show knows you’re smart, and they know you do not like to be patronised.

And somewhere beneath the mountain of corpses, there’s humour. Villanelle may be a ruthless murderer, but she’s also naturally playful and infantile. She makes a ton of facial expressions, and delivers a lot of great one-liners in a blasé manner. At one point, she says, ‘you should never tell a psychopath they’re a psychopath; it upsets them’ – and pulls an exaggerated pout. It’s just very clever, and the writers have such great comedic timing, which is odd to say whilst discussing a show of this genre. But it is what it is. And a lot of the time, I find myself rooting for both Eve and Villanelle at the same time, which makes even less sense, because on paper, they’re enemies. But the show manages to present such a complex relationship between the two women that sometimes, when they make prolonged eye contact, you can see that they begin to have doubts as to whether or not they really are enemies, if they have to be enemies at all. In those moments they are in the same room, you can see it in a pensive stillness in Eve, and a flicker of humanity, of having made a connection, in Villanelle.

KILLING EVE is also visually stunning, and you can tell the designers have put in a lot of thought in the characters’ costumes to reflect who they are psychologically. Eve dons rather plain office attire, because she’s a secret agent who has more things to worry about than whether her trousers are royal blue or ultramarine. She doesn’t know the difference, and frankly, doesn’t care. Villanelle makes up for the aesthetic of the show with her puffy pink dress, her metallic jacquard suit, a baby blue embroidered floor-length gown she borrows, et cetera. And it makes sense that she can afford designer, because she’s very well-paid, and all of her sartorial experimentation is a reflection of her attempt to create an identity.

The show takes place in multiple cities across Europe, which was probably the most appealing thing to me. We get to follow Eve and Villanelle as they travel from Paris to Tuscany to Berlin to London to Moscow, all for work. You’re all over the place with them, and the show doesn’t cut corners and pretend everyone speaks perfect English everywhere. Villanelle lives in Paris, and when we first hear her speak to her neighbour, she’s speaking in French. We also hear Italian, German, and Russian dialogue… and Jodie’s dedication to learning her lines in different languages makes me want to pelt an Emmy at her even more. (In a loving way.)

After binging the show, I knew I had to read the book that it was based off of. That’s CODENAME VILLANELLE by Luke Jennings. I tried to find a physical copy in my local Waterstones but couldn’t, so I bought it on my Kindle instead. For $2.50. $2.50! A steal. I’m not sure why it was that cheap, but I’m not complaining.

I’m not an avid spy-thriller reader. I read and enjoy crime-thrillers – I’ve read all of Gillian Flynn’s books, most of Patricia Highsmith’s, and am about to read Paula Hawkins’ new novel, INTO THE WATER. So I’ve had my fair share of crime fiction. But I realised those I’ve read and loved so dearly are all women-writers, and I’ve not actually read any 21st century fiction by a man in a while. And all of those aforementioned crime thrillers tend to centre on the psychos, with minimal police involvement. So I had my doubts about this. But I needn’t have, because once I started CODENAME VILLANELLE, I could not stop. It was like being hooked on some kind of drug, and I finished the book in a day and a half. I was literally sitting in bed at 2AM, eyelashes fluttering, struggling to physically stay awake, and then prying my eyes open because I just needed to know what was going to happen next.

The writing is quick-paced and precise, and Luke Jennings is probably the only writer out there who actually writes to drive the plot. None of his chapters can be condensed, the novel cannot be shortened, and every word was put there for a specific reason. The narrative flits between Eve and Villanelle’s perspectives, so the book is dipped in dramatic irony, which makes it even more fun. It also drifts between the past and present, with flashbacks to round out the plot. Overall, there are obvious differences from the show, with chunks of plot cut out and some characters gender-swapped… but no matter. I’m not mad about it in the slightest. From experience, nothing about a TV or movie remake promises fidelity to its original text. So naturally I did not expect such of this one. Focusing on the book, it is a delicious read, and I had not expected to like it as much as I did. Now I can see that I like it a whole lot, because it’s just so entertaining. Which I think is one of the reasons we read: to be entertained.

I realise this is not the best review, of the show and of the book. It’s the best I can do without spoiling anything. Both mediums are terrifyingly good, and equally chilling and wicked and daring. Sandra and Jodie’s performances are magnetic and poignant, and if you really want to know how good it is from someone who isn’t me, the show was picked up for a second season before the first one even aired. So you may not trust me, but maybe you can trust those television execs because they know what they’re doing.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge has done it again. I love FLEABAG like it’s an offspring of my own, and while KILLING EVE is just about the furthest thing from FLEABAG in terms of narrative, it’s kept the trademark PW-B sardonic edge, and I’ve filled out the adoption papers for it. I’m ready to be a mother of two, and I have nothing left to say except please, please do yourself a solid and watch KILLING EVE. It is one of those shows that will blow your mind and glue it back together again. So please build a cocoon out of blankets and dive in. Eight hours later, you will emerge as a brand new person.

On becoming a more compassionate person, even when it’s damned difficult.

Good evening.

I was about to wish everybody a happy last day of May, but I realised there are 31 days in May. And it only took me twenty years to realise that. But let’s face it, May is not a very notable month; hardly anything happens. (Though by the time I press publish, it will be the last day of May. So happy last day of May, everyone.)

I popped back to Oxford on Sunday to see a good friend. She invited me over because she had just moved, and her mother was there and it would be great if we could meet. She said, you’ll like each other very much, because you are both introverts who prefer to be alone. I said, so why are you making us meet?

Jokes aside, when I alighted the coach, I found everything quite changed, and yet the same. I look everywhere and I see mottled memories, and it’s weird being back on my own after such a long time because I was so used to being with my friends. Sometimes I still think my entire high school experience was just a weird dream, and being back – physically – helps, because it centres my head and I realise that – oh, all of it was very real.

I picked up some fruit tarts in the city because I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, boarded the bus, felt it rattle along the roads for thirty minutes, and got off at the village shop where my friend was waiting for me. Her mother is lovely, and she set up this little tea scene in the garden out front for my friend and I.

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We took our coffee and snacks, chewed our ears off, and went out to a park behind her house to sit on the swings. The afternoon was so pleasant – the British summertime always is – and I was sorry to leave.

It feels much sadder when you are aware you are somewhere for the last time. I don’t like to write Oxford off, but I figured I won’t be back for a very long time, or ever. I have no reason to be, now that my friends are studying, living, working, and being in the army all over the place. When I was waiting at the coach stop, I thought about all the other times I had done the same in high school, waiting to catch the coach to London. I felt a nostalgic pang then. Being in the exact same spot made me wonder if any time had passed at all. I thought: maybe if I slink back into my high school right now, I will find everything as it was, and that it still has a place for me after all. I can be sitting cross-legged on the landing, waiting for the bell to ring.

I like to romanticise the past, but I know firmly that I would not like to return to that old routine. I did not hate it, and I miss the rigour and discipline, but I have since grown and changed and shifted, and going back would be like trying to fit a square inside a circle-shaped hole. Time is linear for a reason, and I would like to only move forward.

Constantly moving about is what it means to be living in the privileged first world, for which I am grateful, yet it still makes my heart ache. It has made me want to grow out of my wishy-washy phase, of beating around the bush, of playing games. These days, I strive to show people I care about them. But sometimes I end up failing. I think if my compassion level was graphed onto a chart, it would be a standard parabola: high in the beginning before dipping super low, and now – thank God – I’m on my way back up.

Children are wildly compassionate, so I was. Like I said, I was a mediocre, lovable weirdo with many friends. (But that’s not to be confused with popularity.) Yet I think as you grow up, your compassion levels begin to decrease. Slowly. Bit by bit. It happens to everyone, when you begin to learn what it means to be jealous and angry and sad and spiteful. And that’s all completely normal, and accounts for the first part of my parabola.

My lowest dip was at around age sixteen. I was the same person, but I wanted to grow up. Which is common. Everyone at sixteen would rather be twenty. Around sixteen, when I began to dip my toes into relationships (romantic, platonic, familial – anything, really), I discovered that ambiguity was fun. I liked the feeling of having an inkling as to how things may develop with someone. I thought it was way more daring and delicious than reaching a conclusive truth.

I talk as though I was a harlot, but I really was about the furthest thing from it. Of romantic relationships, I had none. I was more intrigued by the chase than a relationship, and I preferred the attention a person would give me over the actual person. Once things gained clarity, I lost interest and fled. A boy asked me out after months of us texting, and I told him, sorry! I can’t date, because I’m sixteen and my mum says I’m not allowed to have a boyfriend. It was a lie. My mother had never said I could not date. I don’t even think she would have opposed, if I had brought it up. But I had said that because I knew that it would work. It did.

Sometimes I look back at that and I am sad, like I have squandered a relationship. I realise we could have potentially had an innocuous and wonderful time together, in the way only two clueless teenagers could have done. We tried to keep in touch for about a year after we both moved. Or, he did, but he had already scared me away emotionally so no concrete plans were made. Then he gave up. I still have dreams about him, and in those dreams we are still just the two of us, in a state of ambiguity. I used to wake up teary-eyed, thinking I will text him and fix everything, but now I know it is unsalvageable. It sounds absurd, but when you have something that resembles a first love, you don’t forget it.

It was like that with other relationships too. When something was too good, I thought: oh, shit. I always thought there will come a breaking point, that I will reach the glorious pinnacle, and things will come crashing down. So I kept things at arm’s length for a while, even when I was at a girls’ school and figured nothing much could happen. (Wrong, by the way. But we’re not going to talk about that right now.)

But thankfully, a parabola cannot be one without an ascent, and that’s where I am now. I am being sincere when I say I really am trying my damned hardest to be a more compassionate person. I want to trust and love people with an open heart, and I want to give freely. Yet it is a journey.

These days, when I have a great night out with my friends, I become cold and unapproachable the next day. I don’t mean to, yet it’s like my brain tells me I’ve become too transparent. That if I don’t recalibrate, people will not like it. I know it does throw my friends off, how quickly I go from let’s get plastered and braid each other’s hair to my cool, day-after indifference. I look at them blankly, as if I’m miles away, and I can sense that pause, that hesitation from their side. Like they’re figuring out how they should act with this clinical version of me that is such a departure from the warm and happy version they were with just ten hours ago.

I’ve only just realised that is something I do, and I am appalled by my own reflexive mercuriality. I do like my friends a lot. I enjoy their company, and I think they are great. It reminds me of the classic break-up line: it’s not you, it’s me. Which is true. Something programmes me to draw back the second I establish meaningful human contact, and strangely, it only happens with people I’ve met in adulthood. With my childhood friends, I can go as hard as I like, and the next day, I’m still completely relaxed with them, and ready to go again. Analyse this, Pierre Janet!

Anyway.

The point is, I’m trying to be more compassionate, so when my friends tell me, but you are compassionate! What are you on about? I can really, really feel in my heart that that’s the truth. I know I have a lot to work on, so I will. Having a blog like this helps a lot, because sometimes I don’t even know what my issues are until I sit down and begin to type. Then it all comes out, and I can move forward again and try to patch things up.

Luckily, instantaneous social media is an optional hellscape.

It was not until recently, and I’m talking as recent as half a year ago, that I realised one very simple truth: no one has to know what is going on in your life. I mean this in terms of social media, and especially instant ones like Snapchat and Instagram, because very often, I too have no idea what is going on in my life in general. I think that online, we’re so used to sharing as the default of living, we forget that actually, it isn’t. That your high school friends don’t need to know anything about your current life at all. And vice versa.

It did not use to be as bad. When I was 13 and had about an hour on the computer each day, Snapchat was not yet a thing. Instagram stories were not around either. I remember Facebook and Blogger were massive circa 2011, but it was a different atmosphere, because while those sites were close to operating in real time, they were largely not actually instantaneous because nobody had amazing smartphones. When you had had a great day out, you took photos, and then you went home, sorted through them and uploaded them on Facebook. Or when you had had an awful day and felt the need to go on a tirade on Blogger, you blogged the same way you would have written a diary entry: in retrospect. So there were still tiny gaps in time from when a thing happened to when you posted about it online.

Then of course, further back in history, when you parted ways with someone, you just never saw them again forever. Which must have really sucked, so I’m not slamming social media in this post and saying we should all delete our accounts and crawl back into our respective caves and wait for death; just that moderation is extremely important.

Because it’s not like that now. Now, everything is so easy and instant that it feels like you have to let people know where you are at all times, who you’re with, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling. It’s like you have to lay them all out side by side, baring all for the world to like and comment and react, because if you do not post a picture, then did it really happen? Snapchat and Instagram make it even easier to over-share by letting you add Geotags, hashtags, and even temperature icons to show you how warm or cold each day was. All of this is a lot of information from a lot of people being pushed around, day in, day out. And if you really think about it, long and hard, you’ll end up sitting in a café, phone in hand, finger hovering around the ‘post’ button, thinking: why am I doing this?

I don’t mean to sound like an old person reprimanding my own generation. I don’t use Snapchat, and my Instagram is private to a degree where only the people I care to connect with are just those ones I am following and am being followed by. Yet. I love scrolling through Twitter, and can never spend more than three waking hours without checking my phone if I’m not doing anything else that demands I have the device put away. But I’m beginning to, more and more, stray away from airing my entire life to all my middle school friends and random acquaintances. (And here she is, blogging about it to strangers, as if that’s any better.) I mean, I don’t deny that I love the Internet. It’s so wacky and informative and just really fun. And I love keeping in touch with the people I care about, people I won’t be able to otherwise because we live so far away from each other. I’m not saying the Internet is evil and out to steal all our souls. It has its merits. Also, I participate in it, so if I say it is complete and utter crap then I’m just being a hypocrite.

But there comes a point when you’re about to post a story and you’re like, are these people who can access it even anyone I care about? Probably not. On Facebook, I only add people I know, so it’s not like I’m endangering myself adding randos who may or may not be serial killers. But when I say ‘people I know’, that’s really the only thing most of them are. They are someone I know. Someone I’ve met before. Someone I’ve maybe said hi to thrice in my life and then never spoken to again forever. Do they really need to know what I’m doing right now?

Our culture of just throwing whatever we’re doing out there is wonderful and bizarre at the same time. Wonderful because my uncle who lives on another continent now knows what I had for lunch and my thoughts on said meal, but bizarre because… well, for the same damn reason. And the more I got to think about it, the weirder it got. I realised I needed to stop posting about everything I’m doing on any profile of mine that has a following of over 50 people. And then limit to posting only the highlights. Because, chances are, even with only 50 followers, maybe about 25 of them care. And while it’s good to be liberal with sharing your life, provided you’re being smart and safe about it in the age of stalkers and corrupt tech CEOs, this need for documentation is so often craved for the wrong reasons. Like to impress someone, or to make yourself feel good, or to make someone else feel bad.

But perhaps the craziest thing is the realisation that none of it has any real value. None of it. At the end of the day, this entire virtual world of instantaneous social media (Snapchat and Instagram stories, mostly) means nothing. When I realised that literally not a single person on this planet – not my best friend, not my dad, and least of all some random dude I went to primary school with – has to know anything about my life at all, it changed everything. It was like I had sobered up. It was kind of shocking, how long it took. But I suppose that just comes with growing up and seeing sharing as the norm, and feeling like I had to do it too, and never questioning it. When I realised I didn’t have to do it, I thought: well, shit. I mean, wow.

Now I’m just trying to relearn this very simple thing called privacy. Knowing stuff about someone, having them be so gracious and kind as to invite you to take part in their life… that is a privilege, not a right! It is a special thing. When someone opens up to you, it means they trust you, and they like you. We are so used to sharing and over-sharing and getting caught up in all of it that we forget it’s not an obligation. Now we are offended when someone does not have every single detail of themselves up on Facebook. We are annoyed when someone’s Instagram account is on private. We hate not having access to people and we are so dissatisfied when there is a lack of information because we expect everything to be available all the time, without really thinking about why we’re doing any of this at all.

I’ve had an Internet friend ask me why I wasn’t letting them follow my personal Twitter account, which is and always has been on private. Why they would ask me that was strange to me, but they only wanted an explanation, so I gave one. I said: we’re not yet on a level where I feel comfortable with that. And that was really just the only explanation I had, and the truest one. I wasn’t being malicious, I wasn’t playing exclusive or hard to get, and I wasn’t trying to have the upper hand. All I knew was that I posted personal information and photos on there to share with a handful of my school friends, and just because an Internet person had found my account (albeit with good intentions) did not mean I was ready to share these parts of myself with them. They actually just went, that’s okay, I understand. And that was the end of it. It was cool.

Of course we can still do whatever we want. And we can still post about our lunches and which cafés we’re sitting in, and have twenty Instagram stories documenting everything you do in a day, from when you have breakfast to those few minutes before you fall asleep. But it does a person good to remember that all of it is optional. You really can opt out at any time and you don’t have to offer any explanation beyond what you are comfortable with. Your acquaintances do not have to know where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing all the time. This should be an extremely freeing realisation: that if you want to keep your life to yourself, you are allowed to do that. It may seem like you have to show all, but you really do not. You can delete all your social media accounts and revert to good ol’ email correspondence, for all anyone cares. Or if you just want to keep sharing and uploading and posting because it genuinely does make you happy, then you’re very free to do that, too. Like I said, I’m not here to police or reprimand anyone, and I don’t think anyone’s better or worse if they use or don’t use social media. I’m just here to throw out the reminder that there is a choice, no matter how forgotten it is, and we are allowed to decide for ourselves how much of our lives we would like to share, and how big we want our social circle to be.

And this last bit is just common sense, but maybe it should be reiterated that regardless of what you do online, when someone is trying to spend time with you in person, the least you can do is put your phone down for a second and just live in the fucking moment.

Falling down the rabbit hole of multilingualism.

A friend and I met up in the park today because the sun was out again. We were planning to read, and we had brought our books, but then of course we launched into a two-hour chat instead. We had a riveting conversation about men and women and those who make soul-destroying crushes, high school memories, and then… and then we got to talking about languages, because I had just taken my linguistics exam last week.

My friend is bilingual and learning Arabic, I’m trilingual and learning Russian. We both like to dabble in other languages, just learning little bits we’re interested in without really committing to it. We agreed it can be really fun. After all, there is no such thing as knowing too much, and the human mind is a super absorbent sponge, ready to soak up anything you throw at it. (Including acid, so you’d better check what’s in your cup before you empty it into your skull.)

The moment we got to talking about languages, we were both so excited because we had been apart for a while and never caught up with each other about our progress. We were good friends in high school, but when you go to different universities, you don’t get to see each other much anymore because life gets in the way. We aren’t that bothered by our long periods of radio silence, because close friendships from school are all made of thin, invisible steel that will never break or rust. Yet there were gaps, but we managed to bridge them when we began to meet up regularly again about three weeks ago. They texted me during exam season asking me if I wanted to study together, and I said, are you kidding? Yes, yes, yes. And there was our magical reconnection.

Now that our exams are over, we lie on grassy fields and talk nonsense. It is extremely therapeutic, and everybody should lie on a grassy field with a friend and talk nonsense at least once a semester.

The conversation flowed. We talked about politics and possible job prospects, and at the intersection of that was the United Nations. For people who are not familiar with this part of the UN, they list English and French as their official languages, in addition to Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, and Arabic. Obviously, they have speakers of all languages what with it being a global organisation, but these are their core six. We talked about that and came to the conclusion that the both of us should study French this summer, then see where we end up when we’re both back in London in September.

We picked French because it was one that neither of us had really done, so we would both be starting from scratch. We also picked it because then together, we will have all the UN languages at our fingertips. (Ish. Because we’ve obviously got a lot of work to do with our Arabic and Russian. Yet the idea is thrilling.) We figured we might as well be productive this summer, but we were only going to self-study because this is only going to be a fun pastime. Plus I already knew that my summer-job wages are only going towards Russian classes at the language centre I went to last summer.

Last summer, I was working 10-6 five days a week then but not making a lot of money, because I was a 19 year old sitting at a boring desk in an uninspiring office. I spent half a month’s wages on that ten-week Russian course, and writing that cheque would’ve been gut-wrenching if I didn’t enjoy those two hours a week so immensely. You really do learn so much faster and better with a teacher, and now I just want to get another job so I can go back.

We know we will not be amazing in French by the end of the summer. We won’t even be anywhere close to good. But we will be able to ask for a glass of water, or maybe ask how much bread costs. And that counts for something, doesn’t it? Yes. Yes, it does, especially if you love water and bread as much as I do.

Learning languages has slowly integrated into my life and now holds a solid spot in my heart and mind. This is not something I had expected to happen. If somebody had come up to me in 2013 and told me that in five years’ time, I would be taking (and loving) a linguistics class, that I would be perusing language blogs on Tumblr in my spare time… I would have frowned and said in utter confusion: I do not see that on my horizon. Maybe you’ve confused my future with someone else’s.

Now you can see that my view has changed. I find it to be easily the most stimulating thing. And I don’t even have to leave the house for the world to open up before my very eyes.

People don’t realise that language learning is one of the few things in life that can be this rewarding even when you are very shitty at it. Which, to me, a big dumb dork, is a huge incentive. With anything else, like dancing or playing an instrument, it usually does not feel too good until you have gotten to an intermediate level. You gliding across the studio gracefully on demi-pointe, or playing Bach on the piano, is the accumulation of the hours and hours of hard work you have put in before you got to reap this single brilliant moment of pleasure and satisfaction. Yet with languages, you’ll be surprised at how much you can do, how quickly you can do it. You can self-study five chapters of a German textbook and stride to your nearest German speaker, then, with subpar pronunciation and poor grammar, strike up a conversation by rattling out a self-introduction. They will smile at your effort, and the smile will be a genuine one of awe and admiration, because this is how all people react when someone is learning their native language. And voilà, you’ve got yourself an acquaintance.

Isn’t that the most magical thing? Say it is, say it is!

I don’t have that much more to say, except that I’m glad I’ve been thrown down this rabbit hole. I didn’t think I would care for it at all, least of all so deeply, yet with every person I befriend on Langblr who is learning one or two or three languages simultaneously, I can happily say that if I were to do it all over again, I would jump at the opportunity. I have experienced Wonderland, and I don’t think I shall ever want to go back to Victorian England.

They’re just not that into you, and that’s okay.

We are all kind of the same. I think that deep down, people just want to be validated. Or needed. Or loved. Whatever your version of validation is, you just want to, at the end of the day, not be all on your own. Because while it is nice to be alone, you want to be in that state voluntarily.

As someone who has always wanted validation in whatever form it came in, what I have never really thought about is how most of the time, rejection and disinterest is really not very personal. I say ‘very’, becaus it is personal to an extent, when someone rejects or is disinterested in who I am as a person. But there is absolutely no reason to believe it goes deeper than that.

When I was in my adolescence, I was never the cool kid at school. But I was also not the uncool kid. I was not the anything-kid. I was just a kid. I made good grades and people laugh, which meant I was affable and unassuming enough that other kids who came into contact with me wanted to be my friend. As in, they enjoyed spending time with me, in the most generic way, and would sit with me at lunch. This was a huge blessing to my validation-fuelled soul, which actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure came from my parents never really having validated me as a child. Throughout school, when I got As on report cards, they would say, that’s nice, honey. But you ought to be doing that anyway. Later on, when I got into the universities I applied for, they had said, oh, but we never doubted you to begin with.

Just to clarify: my parents are not monsters. They did and do love me, and I had a pretty fun childhood. They are just stoically efficient people who believe in discipline and humility and kindness. With that in mind, they appear to have decided that the best way for me to walk in their footsteps was to always say to me, that’s good, but not amazing. If they were trying to keep me grounded you know they succeeded, because I’m not now Instagram famous. So we can agree that it worked out for the best.

But as a kid who needed validation, I wasn’t thinking in terms of building the foundation of my values, because kids do not think like that. Every time I got a nod, I just took it as a cue for me to do something cooler. So I spent many years subconsciously trying to impress my parents, skipping over hurdles like a show pony on crack, all the while craning my neck in their direction to see if they were looking. I wanted them to tell me I was amazing, just once. And I didn’t get why some of my friends had their parents telling them they were amazing when they did not achieve as much as I did, to the extent that I did. All of this should really have messed me up way worse than it had, but it luckily didn’t. Eventually, I just got a little burned out and slowed down, which did wonders to my psyche. I realised that my parents were not faking it when they didn’t care for superficial achievements. They really just did not, and they were kind enough not to water it down for me just because I was twelve. Now, as an adult, I am slightly disillusioned, but at least I have finally learned the art of calming the fuck down, and I’m becoming a little better at it with each passing day.

My origin story aside, this same good-naturedness I had as a kid carried me through high school and (currently) university, and I made some close friends. I needed validation, still, but I had decided it was not going to be at the expense of who I was as a person. So I did my own thing, and wasn’t afraid to express my weirdly specific interests. This allowed for people see me as a harmless weirdo. The nice kind of weirdo, who just moved in her own way and to her own beat, and not the kind to get ostracised for being too weird. (Which is cruel and it should never be a thing, but that’s a topic for another post.) The friends I made are mellow, and together, we are an assemblage of all the lovable weirdos of mediocre popularity you have ever met in school. There is no drama because our favourite activities include drinking wine, cooking, and playing board games, and I’m really glad it has come together nicely.

Yet even with this stability now, even after learning to calm down, the mark of being the sensitive, validation-starved kid is etched deep into my skin and never fully fades. Throughout my life of trial-and-errors with people, I have discovered that it hits me a lot harder, and hurts me a lot more, when someone doesn’t want to be my friend. When I don’t click with someone with whom I feel I ought to, my first thought is always: This is my fault. And then: What am I doing wrong?

I often end up beating myself up over a curt reply from someone I really like, or getting antsy when the unexplained distance with an acquaintance is not bridged no matter how hard I try. Three to four nights a week, instead of nodding off to sleep when my head hits the pillow, my mind goes over each interaction I’ve had, in person or online, and I lie awake wondering if I should’ve said to someone something else instead. Something funnier, something better. I know. It is a lot of worrying. And maybe it is of some relief knowing all of this overthinking is actually a common trait amongst introverts, that I’m not suffering and being completely absurd alone. Introverts, I’ve read, are often perceptive in not only correctly gauging situations happening around ourselves, but also in sorting out all that junk within our own hearts and minds. As in, we are self-aware enough to end up always questioning the choices we have made, even if we can’t possibly undo them, or if they were good choices anyway. It’s like having a filter in your brain that repeatedly sieves through your entire life, looking for stuff to freak you out – that’s a rotten deal to have been handed.

So it may be difficult for us to balance the knowledge that we’re trying our damned hardest and the reality that some people still just don’t really want to be friends with us. I know that’s how it is with me. I used to be so vexed when I did not manage to please somebody, when they did not validate my efforts by responding as I had hoped they would. Now I am gradually realising that even if all your superficial traits show you two should be compatible, yet you are just not… it’s okay. That it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not because I’ve done something horribly wrong to have messed it all up. It’s just that not everyone you want to befriend will actually end up becoming your friend. That’s really rather normal, and no one is to blame for any of it.

Of course, relationships take time to develop. So just because things are cold now doesn’t mean they can’t defrost. But the bottom line is this: if you have to mechanically engineer someone’s interest in you, retyping each text thrice before you hit send, your brain always calibrating your next move, hoping you won’t be too much or not enough… then the friendship is probably not meant to be. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there just should not be this great an amount of exertion required. When that happens, what you do is you open your little clasped hands and release that person like you would a butterfly. Then you watch them fly away and you do not do anything about it, because no one owes anyone anything and that will always be a universal truth. You should not be saying, this is how much effort I’ve put in, so this is how much friendship I should be getting back. No. People are not gumball machines. Similarly, the reverse holds true, and you don’t owe them your time and attention either, especially if they have no interest in any of it to begin with. What can I say? If you’ve tried, you’ve tried. Know when to stop trying.

If you still need validation, as I sometimes find myself craving, that’s a normal human condition. And rejection is going to hurt, but it is never, ever as personal as you think it is, so that in itself is some consolation.

She is back to her old ways.

And what are those old ways? Relishing being home alone by painting for four hours straight with my bedroom door open. Listening, loudly, to an embarrassing playlist on Spotify. And drinking some kind of beverage (Diet Coke, or orange juice) straight out of a family-size bottle/carton. Like a rascal.

I’ve finally finished my exams! I was excited for this last one because it was linguistics, and I’ve always loved grammar. So I enjoyed learning it, even if sometimes, understanding a concept felt a lot like trying to pull a freight train uphill, with its carriages tied to a polyester rope I hold between my teeth. High drama aside, the exam venue was all the way out slightly past Greenwich, which was a trek. I knew it was going to end at 5:30, and I figured I could get off the tube at Canada Water and find a café in which to sit and write. I had even brought my laptop with me for that purpose. But no such luck. It took forever to even get out of the exam hall, what with it having contained nearly three thousand people. Everybody traipsed away and piled onto the light rail. It was filled to the brim and we were packed like a can of sardines.

Afterwards, on the tube, I heard it rattle past each station and I wondered if I should still get off at Canada Water. I suddenly felt exhausted and too far away from home, and I ached to lie on my bed. The train doors opened at Canary Wharf and a swarm of the most solemn-looking people in pantsuits bumbled in, at once filling up every crevice like liquid molecules. The way they moved, they just seemed to seep into each empty space. Maybe I make it out that I don’t like it, but I don’t mind it. At least then I feel like the train is stopping for a good reason. When it stops and no one gets on or off because it’s 2:30pm on a Wednesday in Golders Green, I feel impatient, like perhaps we should not have stopped. A massive rush of people later, the train doors closed and we plunged through the tunnel again. When we reached Canada Water, I stayed planted firmly in my seat and decided I was going home instead.

I got home and it was late. I fed myself because I was ravenous, and then I sat around doing nothing for a while, uncomfortable with my newfound freedom and not knowing what to do with it. Oddly, it did not occur to me that I ought to be out of the house and celebrating with a drink or two or five. It’s Friday, after all. But no. I just began to clean my room. I found an abandoned canvas painting, so I took out my acrylics and decided to finish painting it.

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This is not the whole painting – in full, you can see the sky from the big windows opposite. And of course, the coffee maker and the milk cartoon will be painted in, details will be created… but I am doing everything so slowly, we may never get to the finished product in our years of living.

I only stopped because I remembered I was meeting a close friend from high school for coffee tomorrow. We plan to have a wander around the park too, weather-permitting, sit on the grass and talk. I like doing that with people: sit and talk. If there is one thing I want to do forever, it is to go on eternal coffee dates with all my friends in the British summertime, and we will perch on a high stool or a park bench or the edge of a wooden chair – and just talk.

If snippets of my summer holiday this year is collated into a montage, I hope it will stream to Rollercoaster by Bleachers. It always puts me in a good mood, as do all of Jack’s songs. My friend took me to their concert last Autumn and the atmosphere was incredible. It was a rather snug venue, but no matter, because you could tell everybody who was there really wanted to be there. We all danced the night away drinking highballs from plastic cups and letting the liquor and loud music course through our veins. It’s many months ago now but when I close my eyes I can still picture it so clearly. The way the girl in front of me had raised her arms up and closed her eyes sometimes to feel the music. She knocked her knees together and shook her head from side to side, and her messy bobbed hair swayed with each turn, and I was enchanted by the moment.

But I digress again.

I haven’t seen my friend in months, and all I want to say on this matter is that I do not wish to show up looking like a haggard sea witch on the brink of death. I know good friends care less about what you show up in than the fact that you show up. But it’s not very polite to appear with greasy hair. At any rate, I like to be clean, and I can never go to sleep without a good scrub and a hot rinse. So I had clambered out of bed and stepped into the shower to wash the school year off of me. I watched it disappear down the drain and I stepped out of the bathroom feeling brand new, flushed and warm and happy. The second hand on the clock went tick tick tick but I couldn’t care less because I had nothing to do. I knew I would get used to this empty idleness quickly.

I’m going to bed now because it’s 4 in the morning and the sun is beginning to rise. I can see from my bed, out the balcony and beyond the parapet, that the sky is tinged with hues of blue and green in the most majestic way, blended into a curious turquoise. And then there is that sure shot of a recognisable rosy glow. The birds begin to chirp and I think: oh, shit. It is so late that it is early.

Good night!