The power of community.

Some of you may know that I’ve been going through a rough patch lately. I lost my job in January, a job that I really enjoyed and that gave me a huge sense of satisfaction. My confidence took a massive hit, and I started feeling useless and worthless. To top that off, I felt like I was stuck in a creative rut; I couldn’t even focus on reading, let alone writing or singing or making stuff. For a while, it seemed like my life had no purpose. Things were looking bleak.

And I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to.

See, at first glance, my life looks perfect: I have a new and exciting job, I have someone at my side I get along with, I have a place to call home. Who wouldn’t dream of this?

Thing is, I feel like something is missing. And when I was in that dark place, I realised what it was.

It’s the sense of community.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my city, but it’s a pretty lonely place. Even if you have friends, chances are you don’t see them enough due to work commitments, different schedules or just something as simple as living on the opposite sides of London. And being in a relationship, as good as it may be, will never be a substitute for friendship. Enjoying the privacy of having your own place is all well and good, but sometimes even an introvert needs to talk to someone.

An idea sprang to my mind: what if I was to start my own community of like-minded people? A safe haven, if you will, for those who need someone to rely on, but without the burdens of relationship. Imagine: a big house with plenty of shared space for cooking, chilling and letting your imagination spring to life, but with enough room for everyone to have their own private space if they need it. Imagine being surrounded by people who bring out the best in you, who inspire you and who you can feel comfortable around. Imagine always having someone around you to lend an ear when you feel down. Someone to rant to when you’re angry. Or just someone to have a glass of wine with when you’re lonely and in need of company.

lifeyouwant

Some people would say that living in a shared house is a step back for someone who had their own place. But I don’t see it that way. It’s just a step in a different direction. Who said we’re all meant to find joy and fulfillment in the same things? Who said we all need to aspire to the same kind of life?

So, the idea is there. It’s still just that – an idea – but I hope I can make it real one day.

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20 things goths never say.

So I got sucked into a YouTube vortex this morning. We’ve all been there: you watch one video, then another, and then, all of a sudden, three hours have passed. Anyway, I stumbled upon this and this and this. If you’re in need of a laugh, watch these videos. Seriously, they might just make your day, like they made mine.

Needless to say, my own list of shit that goths never say has immediately started forming in my brain. And because I’m terrible with videos and couldn’t edit one if my life depended on it, I decided to write it all down before it disappears forever.

So, here’s 20 things you’ll never hear a goth saying.

  1. “I just love shopping in the spring and summer. All those pretty pastels and lovely florals! Winter clothes are so boring. Remember last year? Who needs all this black velvet?”
  2. “Of course you can touch my hair and tattoos and clothes! Yeah, I know you didn’t ask for permission, but you really don’t have to. After all, it’s a perfectly normal thing to do, right? Nothing wrong with invading a stranger’s personal space if they look a bit different.”
  3. “I think I’m getting too old for this goth nonsense.”eldergoth
  4. “Wave Gotik Treffen? Nah, let’s just go to a nice resort in a warm country and lounge by the pool, working on our tans.”
  5. “This dress is really cute! I wonder if it comes in pink.”
  6. “Is this too much eyeliner? Maybe I should tone down my look.”
  7. “Nothing is more flattering than being perved at by random fuckboys or fetishised by sweaty old men with moustache.”
  8. “Bats? Ugh, gross.”
  9. “So remind me again, when is this Halloween thing?”
  10. “Yes, I do worship the devil. And yes, you’re right, all goths are satanists.”
  11. “Guys really shouldn’t wear eyeliner, it’s just not right.”
  12. “No worries, I can do your Crow makeup for you. You’re my friend, right?”
  13. “If you really want to be a goth, you better start self-harming.”
  14. “My favourite goth band? It’s a tough choice between Evanescence and Marilyn Manson.”
  15. “It’s laundry day, I better get started on separating my blacks from my lights.”gothlaundry
  16. “Twilight is my all-time favourite vampire book. The story is so innovative and gripping, and the characters are incredibly well-written. Plus, it’s the best love story ever written.”
  17. “He told me I’d be pretty without all the makeup and piercings and black clothes, so I changed for him. I know he may sound like a dick, but he just wants what’s best for me.”
  18. “Of course I love it when random strangers point fingers and shout abuse at me when I walk down the street, minding my own business. If it wasn’t for them, I would never know I’m a goth.”
  19. “Yes, I’m actually going to a funeral. It would be ridiculous to wear so much black if I wasn’t.”
  20. “Right, I think I have enough boots.”

Can you think of anything else? Or perhaps you’re a goth and you’ve actually said some of these things? Unlikely, I know, but the world is full of surprises.

Itchy feet.

Every now and again, I feel like taking a long break from life and going on an adventure.

Where I’m from, gap years are not that common, and unless your family has never had any money worries, you’re probably thinking of looking for a job right after graduating. Once you do, you hold on to it for dear life, because there’s not many jobs going on, and you feel like you should consider yourself lucky to have one. Travel? What travel? With what you’re making, a week in a beach resort in Egypt is probably the height of your dreams. Getting three or four weeks off? Forget it, you might as well quit. Then, there’s the societal pressure to settle down, get married, have children…

In short, once you’re a proper adult, there’s not much chance of you going on a proper adventure.

I’ve always felt slightly envious of those people who do crazy stuff. People who go quit their jobs to go to Malawi and build orphanages, or trek through Asia on a donkey, or some such. The wacky adventure I’d like to go on one day seems like a walk in the park in comparison.

See, I really, really want to ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. Alone.

In the grand scheme of things, the 874 miles is nothing. It’s perfectly doable in 2 weeks if you take it easy, less if you push yourself. It’s finding the time to do it that proves the most challenging. There’s always something else going on, some other trip planned already, and never enough annual leave to cram it all in.

But I promised myself I will complete it before I turn 40. So I still have a few years left.

lejog

The route, commonly known as LEJOG, is one of the most popular long distance rides in Britain, and takes you from the southwestern tip of the country to the northeastern one. I’m normally great with planning things, but I’ve never done a really long ride or a cycling holiday before, so even the thought of packing is daunting. How much stuff would I need? What should I leave behind? Should I camp it (probably not) or stay at local B&Bs and hostels (which sounds like a much better option)? When is the best time to go? Should I go hard and pedal like crazy, or take it easy and enjoy the experience? Should I do it for fun or for charity? So many questions, so many things to consider.

For me, the biggest challenge is doing it on my own. I’m very fond of travelling by myself, but a long distance bicycle ride is a whole other story. It takes a lot of resilience to keep on going, even when you’re knackered and you just want to rest your legs. To get in your seat, even though your arse is screaming in protest. To solve problems as and when they come, with no help from anyone. Yes, it’s terrifying, but also exciting somehow.

One thing I know for sure: I will do it, eventually. Because even though to some people completing LEJOG might seem like nothing major, to me it would be a massive achievement.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

The art of being alone.

– So, what did you get up to this weekend? – asked S. when I bumped into her on Monday morning.
– Oh, you know, the usual – I replied. – A night out at Slimelight on Saturday, a spot of shopping and a nice lunch on Sunday…
– Nice! Who did you go with? – she asked, looking at her phone screen.
– Well, I bumped into some friends at Slimes, but I went on my own. Same on Sunday. It was nice – I answered, watching her frantically type a message.
– You should have called me – S. exclaimed. – I bet you felt lonely.

She’s right, you know. I did. But that was all part of the plan. Because sometimes, being on my own is all I need.

Some people can’t stand being on their own. They find themselves lost and confused when they’re not surrounded by others. They never do anything by themselves, the idea of going for a walk (or to the cinema, or to the pub) without company terrifies them. They need the constant reassurance of other people’s presence, and when they’re alone, they feel as if they didn’t exist at all.

I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just, I was never one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely antisocial. I can see how having friends around can make some experiences better. Festivals, gigs and clubs are so much better when you have someone to share the experience with.

But there are some things I enjoy just as much (or even more) with just myself for company.

Let’s take holidays, for example. Sure, it’s fun to go away with a bunch of friends or your significant other, but there’s something liberating about travelling on your own. For one thing, you don’t have to compromise: you pick the destination, the activities, the food; you decide if you’d rather do an all-inclusive cruise, or camping and hiking in the mountains; you choose if you’d rather go to a local bar and get drunk and dance until dawn with strangers, or spend the night on a beach, watching the stars. No arguing, no dragging others along against their will, no hard feelings. Isn’t that liberating?

Shopping is another activity some people see as a social thing, but I really enjoy it better on my own. Somehow, when going shopping with friends, I always come back empty-handed. There’s always someone who needs advice, or someone who doesn’t want to go into certain shops and huffs and puffs when you want to go in, or someone who’s attempting to talk you into trying on things you wouldn’t be seen dead in, or someone who snaps away that item you wanted and pretends not to notice, or someone who has more money than you and sneers at charity shops. I don’t really enjoy shopping that much (except charity shopping), but when I do go shopping, I go on my own. That way, I can focus on the mission at hand – and be done with it quickly, to save some time for reading and games and other fun stuff.

Another thing I find hard to comprehend is the stigma around going to restaurants on your own. I mean, why is McDonald’s OK, but Malmaison isn’t? I see nothing wrong with wanting to treat yourself to a nice meal. I’ve stopped blushing when a waiter asks me if it’s just me or if someone will be joining me later; I guess living in a big city makes things just that bit easier. I used to whip out a book or stare at my mobile phone’s screen whenever dining alone, but I find myself less likely to do that these days; I just enjoy the food, the atmosphere, and the time alone with my thoughts. In today’s world, we’re constantly bombarded by messages, stuck to screens, always contactable, always on. I find it refreshing to switch off every now and again.

owncompany

So let me give you a bit of advice. Want to take that city break in Copenhagen, visit the new pop-up restaurant, see the obscure band none of your friends is interested in seeing? Do it. Because if you wait for someone to do it with you, you might keep putting it off forever. And what’s the point of doing that?

“My black is blacker than your black”, or elitism among the alternatives.

So, a couple of days ago, Angela Benedict has posted this video. In it, she goes from casual and minimalist 90’s goth to what is labelled nu-goth in the span of 5 minutes or so. But it’s not the transformation itself that is the key point of the video, it’s the messages that appear on the screen.

“You’re too plain to be a real goth”.

“You look so normal.”

“Only fakes tone down their look for work”.

If you are (or were) at least a little bit alternative, chances are you’ve heard these before. Or, perhaps, said some of these things yourself.

If it’s the latter, I’m sorry to say that, even though I don’t know you, I dislike you already.

Just think about it. As alternatives, we’re constantly being judged by other people. They give us funny looks, comment on our sartorial choices, point fingers at our crazy hair, piercings and tattoos, and I bet none of us likes it very much.

So why do we insist on doing the same thing to other alternatives? Who are we to decide who’s a real goth and who isn’t? Is there some kind of official Guide to Gothdom (or any other alternative subculture, for that matter), pointing out what we should and should not do/like/wear in order to be considered “true”? Do we really need to be so mean to each other, only to moan later about how the scene is dying? Newsflash: it’s dying because of elitist pricks like you, who scare off newbies instead of encouraging them to embrace their dark side.

gothconfess

Most of us were probably attracted to being alternative because we didn’t want to follow the rules. Why, then, do some of us insist on making and enforcing their own rules and shun those who don’t follow them?

Next time you complain about clubs closing, gigs not happening and not having any goth friends, take a moment to think if maybe you’re part of the problem.

 

Dearest E.,

Recently, I have been missing writing and receiving letters. I thought I’d find someone I could correspond with. I did, but when I sat at the table, an empty sheet of paper in front of me, no words would come.

So it got me thinking that maybe it’s not so much the idea and process of writing letters that I miss, but writing and receiving letters from you. Opening those pastel blue envelopes, your neat handwriting on them, pieces of your daily life hidden between the sheets of paper, and the cassette tapes you would sometimes send me, filled with your music and your voice…

Funny thing, music. Sometimes, I stumble upon something new, fresh and exciting and my first thought is that I’d like to share it with you. Same goes for books that are special to me, thoughts after seeing a particularly good film, emotions in general.

Sometimes, I find myself searching for traces of you online, thinking, hoping against hope, that maybe…

Of course, I never find anything. But you know what they say about hope.

Occasionally, I beat myself up for not being able to drag you to this side, the side of the living. But I know it’s foolish, because, back then, we were both on the same side, weren’t we?

I wonder what your life would be like if you were still here. Would you still write to me? Would we ever get the chance to meet face to face? So many questions, so many loose ends.

I know I have kind people around me, people who wish me well. I could probably, at a stretch, call a few of them friends. But I also know that I will probably never open up to someone as I did to you.

letters

More New Year Non-Resolutions

I mentioned before  that I’m not very good with resolutions in general, and New Year ones in particular. That’s still the case. While most of my friends and family are swearing off cigarettes, chocolate and booze, and vowing to exercise more, eat healthy and be more productive, I’m secretly thinking most of them will fall off the wagon in the next couple of weeks. In my opinion, if you want to change something about your life, you don’t have to wait for the new year/your birthday/a significant date. No time like the present, right?

But I digress.

So, this year, I’m (once again) not making resolutions. Instead, I’m planning to do even more of what I enjoy.

More live music, especially less-known, obscure bands. I kinda think I’d given myself some slack on this front recently, sticking to what I know and like, but I think it’s time to stick my head out of the box and get discovering.

More creativity and, most importantly, more writing.

More meaningful friendships and less passing acquaintances, more confidence and less guilt, more self-love, self-acceptance and good old selfishness.

So, hello, 2017. I’m planning to make you awesome.