The past is never too far, hidden but not forgotten.

Isn’t it an ugly thing when you realise that the past isn’t so distant. All those demons you thought you dealt with and let go, only to realise you never actually did let them go. You just painted over them and hoped they would go away and never revisit you. You fooled yourself and started to live your life again walking through it all blindly. But old ghosts do come back to life. They are timeless and they are waiting in the wings when something triggers your past while creating your present. Unfortunately, I’ve been having my fair share of shocks this past year, pretty much all of them ugly and uninvited. But who said the battle was easy or pain-free? Not for the faint-hearted indeed and certainly a few broken bones and sliced flesh. Well I feel it viscerally and it hits me deep, opening roughly papered over wounds; wounds that never had a chance to heal because I ignored it all and buried my head in the ground. It wasn’t intentional at all, it was just my immediate and only reaction at the time. It is how I deal with problems. Not a very good way indeed, but the only way my brain saw since the memories were too visual, too traumatic and too horrible to relive. But I am forcing myself to feel the pain and relive it, because it’s the only way I’ve realised to move forward and actually learn from it this time properly. You cannot prevent or control other people’s actions. You can only control how you react to something.

I’m going to start with a short story. Six years ago, I was sexually assaulted by my uncle. I wasn’t raped, but I was assaulted and touched inappropriately. It happened on two separate occasions and the only thing I could do at the time was freeze in disbelief. When someone you have trusted for your whole life does something so unspeakable, in my mind I could do nothing. I had no power despite my brain screaming, because the truth is, I didn’t understand how this could be happening. Only the second time was I really sure that the first time actually happened. I hadn’t just conjured it up in my mind. This probably doesn’t make sense, but I have realised that we live in a world where not all women have a voice. We have been taught subconsciously perhaps to smile, to look pretty and to stay silent. The latter is what I did. I stood still and silent, my body on fire and my mind in a state of pure confusion and naivety. He said to me that I am a loving and kind child. I didn’t know if he still thought I was a child. I didn’t have counselling, but I did tell my family and friends. My mother was furious at what her brother had done, so she turned him out. No-one wanted him not because of what happened since that remained a secret, but just because he was old and a burden. He died 2 years later. I remember the last time I saw him a year before he passed away. I held him at arms length and I kissed his cheek tentatively memories of the past still on my mind yet knowing it wouldn’t be long till he would die. In that moment, the hate subsided and all I felt was pure pity. Later, news of his death did not affect me. I was not sad, nor was I happy. I felt nothing but anger.

After that event though, I subconsciously isolated myself. I wanted a boyfriend and yet I didn’t. I didn’t want to be touched. Not by anyone and not by any man. Not long after I was assaulted again on a night bus on the way home after a night out. I was drunk, trying my best not to sleep so I wouldn’t miss the stop, I was simply sprawled on the seats. I was touched inappropriately again. I was drunk, but I still knew what was going on. I just couldn’t scream no or react this time because I was too drunk. I tried to slap his hand away but it was so weak. My mind was completely rational, but my body was paralysed by alcohol and extreme exhaustion.

Bad choices, bad decisions, young, inexperience, naivety and self-blame. I took responsibility for my actions. But again, my skin crawled. No amount of washing that day could clean me. I felt violated and completely out of control yet again. Many women have this experience and people blame them saying it’s your own fault. But that’s simply not fair. There are always two sides to a coin.

I am not sure when it began but from a moment in time, I closed myself off completely. My trust for all men went out the window. I am always weary of men. Especially the ones who tell me how beautiful and kind I am. Some people take advanatge of kindness, but does it mean I should stop being kind? I don’t think so. But I also know that being kind and saying no is equally important. Some men don’t understand no. They can’t believe no. How many times do I have to say no? Why won’t a firm no suffice?

So what triggered my thoughts?

I went on a solo trip and at the end of my trip when I travelled with one of the host members back to the main city as he was going the same place, he started to confess his ‘feelings’. He’s married with a child. He was meant to visit his child. It got awkward. It got strange and he used the words ‘special’, ‘kind’ and countless other crap I’ve heard. I don’t say that to boast, as if I’ve had many experiences. I have many negative ones so I am weary of the words. I say it because it is bullshit. The lines “Why don’t you have a boyfriend, you’re so kind and fun.” are said too many times that I know when it is not genuine or when alarm bells ring warning of interest. He insisted then that he wanted to drive me home which was a 3 hour drive. I politely refused. Said it was too kind but no thank you. He persisted and I firmly insisted I was fine. I didn’t need a lift, I was happy with the coach. It became uncomfortable. Still he insisted and still I declined. It was too far, and he admitted it wasn’t kind, it was only for me this special attention. How many times must I say no? I said it 5 times. Still before I left he said, “If you change your mind, tell me.” I ended up running as soon as I got out the car. It sounds dramatic, I was late meeting a friend and still he tried to stall for time. I was fearful because I thought he might follow me. He was so persistent, it was almost scary. So I fled as soon as I could. As soon as I got out, that was my first instinct. I think it’s important to follow instincts. I felt shit afterwards. I felt dirty. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I don’t believe there is, but I couldn’t help the feelings of disgust.

I don’t believe he would have hurt me. I think he was trying to be kind. I think things got out of control because he became inappropriate. But this time I was firm. I was clear. I spoke up and still he didn’t listen. People only hear what they want to hear, but they don’t really listen. I don’t trust men. I don’t trust persistent people when I refuse an offer. I have a few male friends and off course I can’t blame all men and wouldn’t want to. I do believe there are some good guys out there. But I don’t always trust the good ones either. I have a big problem with trust. I have a lot of open wounds. But I am trying to learn and fight back.

No means no. It never means yes.

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It was never meant to be a goodbye

The hardest thing for me was not leaving. That was the easy part. Goodbyes aren’t easy, but packing the bags, walking through the gate towards a new adventure, now that’s exciting. I didn’t dwell on the goodbyes. But I have realised 9.5 months down the line that the hardest part was deciding to stay. For those who need some context, I live in Japan and have been here since August, last year. It didn’t faze me quitting my well paid job for one with a much lower salary and more of a ‘risk’ some would say. But this was my dream which had come true. This is no longer my dream now that I have achieved my goal to come and live here. It is a beautiful country with kind people, but now the dream has been realised.

Five months down the line, we had to make the difficult decision to re-contract for another year. At this point it would mean 1.5 years left in this country. I wasn’t sure I had achieved all that I wanted so I decided to stay because I felt there was more to discover and a year was too short. But reflecting over my life since being here, I have experienced some wonderful things, but also my fair share of crap. I have been at my lowest and it has been a very painful journey, yet it’s not the end. I wonder when the pain will subside. I feel like I live in a bubble. I feel like I’ve lost my way. I feel like this isn’t reality. Since coming to Japan, I’ve lost sight of my dreams and goals because the cold, hard truth is that I don’t have any. I don’t know where I am going in my life and I don’t know what I’ll do, but that’s okay for now. It’s okay to be lost, I just hope I won’t stay in Purgatory forever.

I don’t regret my decision, but I do wonder what if. Being so far away from home has made me realise and appreciate what I have at home; my family, my friends and an exciting life in London. I miss them all – I’ve never felt so alone as I have here, or maybe I have and I’ve forgotten. It’s in the daily routines and simple things that I remember the beautiful and the memories come swarming back. I miss my family very much. I miss hugs. I miss the smiles. I miss the internet sometimes when I don’t have it. I miss water when I don’t have that. In times like this I think about the people I love and how I left them behind without so much a second thought, but now I am constantly thinking of them; constantly reminded.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I made the difficult decision to continue to stay here even though I am deeply unhappy. I’ve made my bed and now it’s time to lie in it. But I’m not scared. I love my children at school and I am hoping I will be able to heal and rebuild myself. “Always stay calm in any situation” – that is the lesson I am fast learning.

I hope this isn’t where we say goodbye, because to me it was never a goodbye. It was a see you soon. I just didn’t realise a see you soon wouldn’t actually be soon, but what feels like a lifetime. I’ll be home for a holiday soon; it’ll be short-lived but refreshing. I think I’ve lost those rose-tinted glasses now. I think it’ll be time to go back soon and find a new dream. Soon I’ll be saying goodbye to myself – goodbye to the past and the present. Goodbye for now.

What I’ve done

So it’s not been the best of starts to 2016, but there have been some notable adventures worth mentioning. Let’s start with the positive:

  1. I visited Mt. Fuji which was just incredible – there’s nothing like looking at a beautiful snow-capped mountain and knowing your problems are minuscule in those blessed few hours. Unfortunately it doesn’t last, but the exquisiteness and memory will constantly seek to remind you.
  2. I met some great people on New Years but then there was a falling out between my best friend and one of the girls because of her passive aggressiveness and rudeness. Made things complicated, still the positive memories are worth holding onto.
  3. I returned back to school knowing I was wanted at least at my favourite elementary school. But I wonder whether I can do this for another year.

It’s only been 8 days so that’s all I have but intermingled with the positives are the negatives. Since 16th December 2015, I have been facing some challenges and going through a period of extreme loneliness despite being surrounded by my family. I suppose it happened when they started to leave to go back one by one until only one was left standing. We parted ways yesterday and I don’t know when I’ll next see them. It could be 7 months or it could be a year or even a year and a half and that’s if I decide to stay in Japan for another year.

Living in Japan comes with many amazing opportunities and moments, though as with living anywhere life gets in the way and tries to smack you down just when you think your confidence is increasing. That is until life reminds you it’s not you’re just living a lie.

Last year the thing I feared most when driving happened and I hit a child on a bicycle. He’s okay, but I wasn’t. Within that moment I thought I had taken a life. Oh how quick it happens, how everything can change in a moment’s notice. How horrifyingly scary and yet I immediately stopped the car and shaken walked over to the kid. He protested that he was fine, I spoke to his parents later and they assured me he was okay. It didn’t help that I couldn’t effectively communicate in the same language, but I am grateful he was okay. No matter who was in the wrong, as the driver I am still responsible and it is my fault for not spotting him until it was too late. Blind corners are the worst, but I am haunted by the memories and although I still drive, I am afraid history will repeat itself. It was an accident, these things happen I am told, but what if something worse occurred? I don’t think I could live with myself and thus began the consistent questioning ever since. Can I live this life? Can I stay here? Will others be safe from me? Will I hurt someone else? I could easily leave, but I’m not sure that’s wise. I think I’ll be forever running fearful to continue. I can’t live like this and so went my confidence down the drain. That’s the start of when my world decided to crumble. I’m not happy. I’m always angry. I hate myself. I hate that there are some things I can’t control. I hate that I get jealous when there’s no need. I hate that I have let people drag me through the mud. I hate that I don’t have the confidence I need. How can I teach others when I am completely lacking myself?

I am trying to deal with this coupled with my shaken confidence, my low self-esteem and low self-worth. I get angry so easily and it builds up inside. I let it go when I visited Mt. Fuji, but now all that remains is Facebook and it’s jealousy. Why is everyone having a ball and I’m left standing in a freezer? Why does it look like everything else that people are doing is more fun? Why do I continue to compare myself? Why do I hate myself so much? It is a bad habit and one that Facebook does not help, but instead perpetuates. It’s as if I’m looking from afar into the interesting lives of others, but I can’t reach them. I’m the outsider looking from the window but not participating or even a part of the group. The truth is I don’t like them, I don’t want to be a part of it, I just want the adventures with friends, the fun and I want a set of friends to travel with. But the world doesn’t work the way you want it to and you don’t always get what you want so I am dealing with it. I am dealing with loneliness and the fight. It’s a constant battle and sometimes I think it would just be easier to surrender and take the easy way out, but something within me can’t, because that wouldn’t work either, I’d still have the same problems.

There are too many memories that have the power to either control you or haunt you, but that’s if you choose to let them, so it’s a tricky game. They are not just memories to look over fondly or dispassionately, they are a part of you and your past whether you like it or not. They made you the person you are today.

It’s decision time soon and the clock is ticking. Will I stay or will I leave? Will I hide or will I face those ugly demons? I don’t know yet, but only time will tell.

Staring at the person trapped in the mirror – I see you but no one else does

It’s a funny thing thinking about what you look like and actually seeing your reflection in the mirror and seeing someone else. It’s also strange when you meet new people and realise you’re not actually like the people in your books that you’ve been reading and the films you’ve been watching. In fact sometimes it may distress you to realise that you are nothing like you want to be. This is not true for all, since some people are exactly who they want to be, but I am not talking about those people and perfection. Who is that girl I see staring straight back at me? Must I pretend that I am someone else for all time? When will my reflection show who I am inside? Because I am too dependent on the opinions of others and I am too afraid to act, to be me. Why? I can only assume it is because I am afraid rejection. I must admit though I cannot conceal myself and I don’t try anymore, but I am still finding it hard to be confident in me.

When we meet people we see traits in others that we like and wish to emulate. This can have either two effects on us a) you feel jealously towards that person and resent them or b) you feel awe and appreciation. I love reading books and it is so easy to get lost in those fictional worlds living the life of that person for a few hours or going on your own fictional adventure. That’s why it can be hard to come back to reality when you’ve always got your head stuck in a book. Losing track of time is the usual, not feeling hungry just completely immersing yourself in the world of another character and their tumultuous journey. When you get caught up in these images and stories you start to live them as your character and can sometimes believe that you have those certain brave, courageous and strong characteristics. However, when you are faced with the reality it can be a shocking surprise to see yourself as not yourself if that makes any sense. You see yourself not as you thought and suddenly the truth looms nears and blinding. You are not like the characters in your books no matter how much you would like to be. This ladies and gentleman happened to me one fine day when I walked into a new job. No one could know how much I noticed the difference and how it doesn’t come to you subtly oh no, I don’t do subtlety! No if you want someone to know something, especially if that person is me it’s always best to say it loud and clear.  Like this revelation came loud and clear on my first day temping. The way I spoke was soft spoken, quiet and almost afraid of myself and my abilities. You could tell I was oozing a lack of self-esteem, control with a self-deprecating nature and shaky confidence.  The way I acted, cowering away from people, shying away, squeaking and hiding. Is that me? I thought could that really have been me? Why was I acting so timid? What did I fear? And then it hit me, I am not that person who is completely confident in myself and I never have been. I am hesitant and I may not realise it but other people do. They know instantly when they meet me that I am a hesitant person. I find it hard to trust my own judgement even when I know that I am right. I find it hard to make decisions and this is not a good sign. I’ve always felt the need to question myself and my actions since I was little.

When someone asks are you sure? Am I really sure? No always that seed of doubt. It’s a difficult journey and it’s a difficult task relearning and reprogramming yourself to think differently, to be certain and try and make decisions. Too much thought can be lethal and too little can be reckless. Let’s not be overcautious now. I’m trying to be more confident, more forward and less hesitant but sometimes its hard to break old habits. Habits that have been there with you for a lifetime.

Perhaps it is the way one views oneself they are a harsher critic- adamant not to admit they are confident and good. This self-sacrificing and subservient image of bowing down to authority and being trampled upon is wrong and perhaps too ingrained. It is an image we all seem to have, a part of us within us, but it just depends how much control you give it. If there was a fire alarm and a few people ran to one door assuming it was the exit, whereas one person ran to the opposite side knowing that it was the real exit shouting to be heard over the commotion. Who do you think people will follow? Will they follow the crowd? Or the one person running in the opposite direction shouting to be heard that he knows the way. It seems logical to assume you would follow that one person, but when your life is in the fate of one person and everyone else is running in the oposite direction it seems hard to resist and follow that one person. After all I’m sure people would prefer to die together rather than with one or two people. It is almost sociological that we would run with the crowd when the truth is the crowd is following someone else- always someone else but just someone who looks like they are in control.

When I speak to some people they say oh your presentation was great you looked really confident and you did really well. But when you examine my thoughts you understand that I felt nothing close to confidence. If you asked me how I felt I would tell you the truth. It was completely nerve-wracking and scary but I did it. When thinking about it I’m not sure why it is scary when people are there to learn when you give a presentation and training for others in the company.

So to the person trapped inside – how do I reflect you? How do I get you out? Time I guess and perseverance. Right now I keep staring at my reflection and keep wondering when I will win, when will I be set free and given a chance? Rather than locked away waiting for a chance to shine. I wear a mask but I am not fooling anyone except myself clearly. The time is nigh….

For now I leave you with a song which is close to my heart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8GUCQQZS64 Christina Aguilera – Reflection

The importance of self-belief in me and you

I always get little spurts of inspiration from my driving instructor funnily enough because he talks some sense! He should but he’s rather philosophical too. What he says makes sense but I was telling him how I have 3 weeks till my theory ends and I am unsure about time and whether I’ll be able to take the test. He said to me that he could give me a million lessons but if I don’t have self-belief then I won’t be able to do it. He’s right off course, I’ve been through 2 tests already and I could do it, but my confidence and self-belief was shattered second time round. This is true in anything in life though self-belief is very important. If my doctor doubted his skills and doubted himself then I would probably not have much faith in him to carry out my operation. I would reject his help. We take risks in people who are worth taking the risks in because they believe what they can do and they believe they will do it. We put so much of our faith in people who persuade us who can fix the world.

When a person believes in themselves, anything becomes possible. So what stops us from believing in ourselves? What stops us from doing the things we want? Well its simple really, it’s a mix of fear and self-belief and sometimes these have such a powerful affect on us, we don’t even know we are affected. When they are coupled together they make the greatest force and also the greatest enemies.

A little thought I had was that:

If you ain’t got self-belief you’re playing a lost man’s game

This is the truth, because how can you go in the game to win, if you have no confidence or trust in yourself? You won’t win, not because you can’t but because you don’t believe that you can. It’s all in the power of positive thinking, or so I’ve been told, and it’s true, but sometimes we don’t want to accept the truth. We just want to find reasons not to, reasons to run or reasons not to do something again. I hate public speaking, so when I was at school I used to run to the back of the line whenever I came to the front, just so that I wouldn’t have to speak. Or I used to stay quiet when the teacher said who hasn’t delivered their presentation? She forgot about me because a) teacher wants to move on to the next task, and b) there’s more than 30 pupils in a class and I was very quiet and easy to miss which worked very well in my favour. However, this fear stopped me from developing on my skills, and it also stopped me from facing my fears. But this isn’t the only thing which stopped me, because fear does not work alone. It is founded on an irrational pre-existing belief and coupled together makes the worst form of hate. Lack of self-worth or lack of trust in the self damages self-esteem. Just like years of trust can be broken in minutes. It takes years to build relationships which can be destroyed so very easily in a matter of seconds. We build things up but we crumble beneath the weight of consequences. Why did I have a fear of standing up in front of people and talking? It’s not just because I was afraid, it was also because I had the stupid notion that I would be rejected, that I would somehow fail and people would laugh. I had the crazy idea that what I said was not ‘right’ or of any significance and I wonder how a person can get to such a low ebb at such a young age? Maybe because I never had a voice, I don’t know. It’s complex but the reasons are there.

To succeed in life, is to think I can do something, but it is also to believe that you can do it.

So this is the answer then, this is what stops me. It’s not just fear but it is self-belief. So why do I keep fighting myself? Why is everyday a battle in the mind? Where did this self-destructive mentality come from? Years of bitterness and feelings of self-worth, of being walked all over, trashed and stepped on and it time to get up, dust myself off and walk away.

I can understand where it comes from and I can understand how subtly it develops and affects me in everyday life. I can see it now and I can understand how its roots take shape and develop and grow as you grow so when you’re older you can feel constricted when you try to spread your branches. The tree of my life and how seeds take root and develop. Tiny seeds of doubt, tiny seeds of hate and self-loathing. Years of torment from cruel children, put downs by loved ones and rules by society. They say seeing is believing and I suppose that is true to an extent because it is only now I see. These all inhibit progress and you can’t progress till you let go of the past. Why do we hold on tight to the past? to the hurtful things people say? I realised that we keep the negative things that people say rather than the positive. We take it in and it cuts us a little bit, only a small cut, but after a while the cut deepens. It’s a vicious cycle and now it’s time to break from it. I admit it’s hard to break from a habit and it’s hard to break from such a long held mentality. It’s hard to break free, but it has to be done if I want to succeed and if I want to live. It can be done but it takes time and effort and perseverance and I’ve got all the time in the world.

So I leave you with my parting thoughts:

To not believe is to reject the self and who I truly am. It is ultimately self-denial and this must no longer win in my life because I need to accept me. It’s my turn to win in this game and to succeed and fight till the battle is finally won.

Sometimes you come to a crossroads in life….

So I am back again to try and understand my life more. Writing helps me think more clearly and set things out. People say that life is complicated and indeed it is, though sometimes it is very simple. Sometimes it is boring and dull. But it goes through periods! Today I met with a crossroads and an expected an important decision must be made. But I cannot as usual seem to make one that I am completely satisfied with. In life you try to make the best and right decision that you think is right at the time. But I don’t want to risk my chances, likewise no one wants to! Everyone wants to make the right decisions. A doctor has to work under pressure and decide all the time. A submarine officer also has to make a decision based on little evidence in a limited amount of time. How do they do it? Well they do it to the best of their abilities. People could very easily make decisions quickly by putting them under high pressure and forcing them to choose, but most people do not like it since it gives them a limited time to rationalise.

Right now though I have come to a crossroads where I too have to make a decision, but luckily I have more time to decide. Some people say that one must follow their gut or heart but my heart doesn’t like to speak much but my gut I normally ignore and end up kicking myself later for ignoring it! I have absolutely no idea where I am going in life and so this makes looking for a job ten times harder than someone who knows what they want! Okay so if you know what you want to be you’re lucky since the hard bit is achieving it, but if you want it you can definitely do it without giving up. But for those who are not as lucky its a tough search to find the right job. I wouldn’t consider myself less lucky because I don’t believe completely in luck! I believe everything happens for a reason and I also believe that you create your own luck. If you don’t try you won’t get. If you don’t work hard it won’t pay.

Today I went for a second stage interview for a sales job and they offered me the job. Problem is? I’ve never done sales but that is not necessarily a bad thing since it is interesting to try it and learn. What is bad you ask? Not getting paid a base salary but working on commission alone! Okay so I get training which is great but its not enough after a week! Its high time I got a proper stable job. Whats more is on my way home from the interview I was also offered the voluntary position I applied for of which charity expenses are paid for. Its not great but its something at least. I need the experience and I need a foot in the door somewhere! At least it is flexible so I can work part time or find another job!

I want to try this Sales day and I want to see how it goes because frankly I’m intrigued! But I don’t want to sign into a contract that is unsuitable for me. So far opinion has been divided! My best friend says sales, my priest says sales and another friend says sales. On the other hand, my mother, brother and family friend say voluntary job for now. Opinion is clearly divided not just among my family but also in my head. Coming away from the interview I was not as ecstatic as one would be! I need a chance but I don’t know what in!

My brother once said to me long time ago which stuck with me: You can’t live your life walking around waiting for something to hit you in the face! You need to go out there. My brother is an engineer so very scientific and into planning whereas I am the philosopher, vague- abstract- uncertain with no plan to follow! We are both very different people! But he is right I cannot walk around and expect something to hit me in the face hoping that it will be the thing I love!

One lesson I have learnt so well after graduating is that I have learnt literally nothing about the real world! That is why so many people are lost after uni! god knows I was! I am not entirely found either but I have found some footing and I am more aware of things! You can learn so much from the world! Life is not as easy as it looks from uni where you pretty much live in a bubble! Many people told me I should enjoy university while it lasted because I will miss it! But truth is I do not miss it at all. Yes it was stable and it was great but that is a chapter of my life which is over and I do not need to go back or feel the need to stay because I want something new. Working may be difficult but I want to try it. There comes a time where you have to move on and this is the time for me. Maybe I won’t say that in a job but I know now and that is one thing I am certain about! I need new experiences! I need to face the world and I need to try. There is so much to see and do and so much more to life than a bubble! I guess I am a true philosopher in the sense that I cannot stand living in ignorance and instead love discovering and questioning. I cannot be contained but must continually search for truth. University is living in ignorance! It is bliss but once the bubble bursts reality sets in. It is hard but it is the path towards truth. The most important thing is to be positive but to be true to yourself. To keep trying and never give up on your dreams. If you want something go for it and if you don’t have a clue what you want (like me) try and find it rather than crawl in a hole and continue meaningless studying! The only way to discover is to throw yourself in the deep end and swim! I know I can do it! I will do it! I just have to make a decision and it doesn’t matter if it is the right one or not!

Life has different paths and no point thinking of the what ifs! 2013 is about no regrets! Maybe I will gain some enlightenment! I sure hope so!