She is alive.

Oh, hi. The last time I wrote, it was June. In the blink of an eye, it’s September, and this is scary for everyone involved, because we’ve finally trundled into Autumn.

Last time I was here, I mentioned I was burning through studios like Scarlett O’Hara burned through husbands. Then shortly after, I realised one stuck, and I’ve been doing classes there twice a week for about three months.

What I want to say is, that even though I’ve officially started dancing again for nine months, classes are still a total tutorial in humility, which I appreciate. The only way you can even begin to get better at something is by realising that you know nothing at all. And dancing – well and not so well alike – has always been a way to quell my anxiety, which is something I’ve lived with for most of my life. I don’t remember a time when I was not high-strung. As I’ve gotten older, the pressure really began to mount. I’m not even sure where the pressure comes from. But suddenly, it’s there, and I’m constantly feeling like I’m running out of time. Which is absolutely morbid, because I’m twenty years old.

But while going to these classes has been a coping mechanism, there were one or two classes when not even dancing could shut the voices in my head up. When I was at the barre during those times, I would end up dissociating. My teacher would explain steps and what we were going to do, and I would only be vaguely listening – despite trying really hard to stay in the moment. Then she would put on the music and I would be going through the motions, but with absolutely no idea what the hell I was doing at all. I still pointed my toes and straightened my knee and tucked my tailbone in. Physically, I was doing things right. But mentally, I was miles away. Only when the music stopped would I snap out of my trance, look around, and hope I didn’t look too much like I had just dissociated again.

At some point, it got so bad that I had to stop making eye contact with my teacher because I was so paranoid; I kept thinking she knew I’ve got one foot in the studio and the other one in the loony-bin. That she could tell from my glazed-over expression or vacant eyes or something. I mean, she probably thought I was being really strange. And I just wanted to say, I’m so sorry. I really am enjoying these classes. But my brain is melting in this very moment and it’s freaking me out.

There are good and bad days; the latter being I burst out crying at the bus-stop because I’d missed the bus. There were a variety of factors that contributed to my ultimate combustion: that I was on my way to a talk I had really wanted to attend which made me a little nervous, that the bus never comes on time, and that it has chosen to not come on time the day I’m supposed to attend said talk.

But like I said, I’m working on it. Friends help tremendously. Being preoccupied with work and hobbies too. And music. Music seems to touch the tenderest parts of our souls and gives us the courage that will allow us to go on. Of course, it depends on what kind of music you listen to. Sometimes when I already feel like shit, I like to give myself an extra punch in the gut by turning up my saddest playlist to eleven. But most of the time now, I just try to be kind and listen to something that will make me feel a little better, and a little less alone. And that’s that; the idea that you can only do the best you can, that’s that.

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Life continues to challenge and mystify.

June is ending – WHAT?

Some days I think the universe is playing a grand joke on all of us. It is absolutely wheezing at the sight of all of us running on hamster wheels, trying to get things done, trying to go places in life, being totally caffeine-dependent with bags beneath our eyes, blah blah blah.

Actually, most days. Most days I think that. What the fuck are we fighting for? What are our values? What are we living for? I am not hoping to fly high and create a legacy. I am only hoping to know who I am, or at least have a go at figuring myself out, to get some sense of fulfilment in whatever I do.

Back in London, I had been going to Pushkin House events. I went to the Pushkin bilingual poetry reading and loved every minute of it. I mean, truly. I went alone, but felt no awkwardness, even though I was literally the youngest person in the room.

Somewhere along the way, I began to operate alone when it came to the recreational, and I like it a lot. It gives me the chance to practise the fine art of throwing my self-awareness out of the window. It was hard in the beginning, but day by day, I stand a little taller, my scurry relaxes into a stroll, and I look at people in the eye when I talk to them because I owe them nothing and neither do they me. I dine alone, I read in the park by myself, I go places and see things solo. It is not about being arrogant or narcissistic, but simply planting my feet on the ground firmly and feeling unabashed about existing.

Later on, I met up with my tutor for the last time, and we ended up chatting for an hour, only half the time actually discussing my dissertation. The thing about my tutor is this: I don’t know where I’d be without her help. Great teachers leave a mark on you, and she made me give a shit about syntax trees and morphology. And if someone can guide you into loving the weirdest parts of English grammar, they can probably guide you to hell and back.

I went to the department boat party one night. I must have cried internally when the boat floated along the Thames and I realised that Summer was around the corner. Something about being on a boat makes you feel giddy with emotion, and not because you are seasick or had too many drinks on board. I think: I will never be on a boat like this again, and never again will I look out at Canary Wharf to see all these little office lights sparkling like lost stars. Knowing it is the last time you get to do something makes it poignant and assigns it infinitely more value.

Translation workshops followed in the next weeks. I went alone to these, too, even though I almost didn’t – not because I was afraid, but because they were from 10:30-2, and my sleep schedule had suddenly gotten really rough. I went to one of the workshops having only slept an hour the night before. I powered through with that fake rush of energy you get when you take a power nap, and enjoyed it a lot. Then when it was over, I blundered out of the building bleary-eyed, all the way home holding myself back from settling on the ground and falling asleep on a random busy street in Central London.

A week later I packed up because the year was done, and I flew home. On the long haul flight I sat beside the nicest young couple. We watched the sunrise together from our small oval window, flying over strange places and foreign lands.

Now that I am home, I have started dancing at another studio. I am burning through studios like Scarlett O’Hara burned through husbands, I know, but I’m only trying to find what works. It is weird not being a new girl. I mean, I am new here, but I am not new to the sport anymore. (Fun fact: at my second studio, everybody else had been there for months and years, so even though I stopped being new at some point, I was still referred to as New Girl. My teacher would watch us move at the barre, and she would say, Alexandra, lift your elbow! Margot, tuck your stomach in! New Girl, turn out! It was pretty comical.)

I am spending more time by myself than ever, not doing much. Strange thing about being home is that I feel more sheltered, as though I am finally allowed to relax because I have family to fall back on. It’s a different feeling from being in London, where I am in my work mode and I feel I have to be on top of everything. But there, I feel like I can be someone, that I can perhaps forge my own path. Here things are more mellow, and after a while, I feel lost, swallowed in the crowd and blending in the backdrop of other people’s lives.

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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!

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, which I didn’t have.) 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.

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!