geny, girls, inspo

It’s actually really hard to “just be yourself”


One of the most ceaseless pieces of advice to ever exist is to “just be yourself”. Your mother will tell this to you on your first day of school. Your father on your first date. The sales assistant when purchasing a padded bra, and finally, your current insta fitness idol with always follow her monday motivation quote up with a mandatory #beyourself.

But there’s a small problem with that advice, isn’t there. How exactly do you do that? How do you simply “just be yourself” particularly when you’ve been trying to be Cher from Clueless since 2002, sans plaid.

For those of us that never learnt just how to be yourself in our younger years, because media and shiny things to look up to, being yourself actually means years of work undoing trying to be someone else. Probably why most of us either drop out of college or change majors three times in a semester.

To be honest, there are so many other people I’d rather be than myself. I’ve spent years trying to be more impressionable and less anti-authoritarian.

Why? Because being yourself is f&cking hard. It’s the whole reason we have role models, so we don’t have to do all the leg work. It’s like an IKEA set that’s already been put together, only just for your personality, and the only warning label is ‘don’t choose Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan’.

I always thought the journey of life was about trying to figure yourself out, find out who you ‘really’ are and other enlightening things probably said by the Dalai Lama or Ellen Degeneres. It was about making mistakes, doing dumb dumb things, kissing the wrong boys and telling everyone about it. Then hopefully you’d come out the other end with this beautiful sense of self-awareness. But, now we’re meant to start being ourselves from the get go? We’re expected to be this wonderful, original human right from the start.

Considering we’re all a product of our own environment, I don’t really understand what the whole be yourself thing means or how you get there. I get the basics; be true to yourself, listen to your heart, be honest, don’t shoplift cigarettes etc etc. But, that’s not very applicable information, is it? Instead, it puts a rather large amount of pressure on us.

So, since this advice ceases to roll over and die, I think it’s time we take a look into what ‘being yourself’ could potentially mean, for all of us.

Duh, stop being other people

Pretty simple. Everyone wants to be someone; someone special, someone beautiful, someone intelligent, but sometimes that can be confused with wanting to be someone else. For instance, I once wanted to be Crysta the fairy from Fern Gully and my friend Elyse wanted to be former playboy bunny Kendra Wilkinson. Today, I’m glad my aspirations were slightly more unachievable than hers. But the thing is, it’s not so bad to aspire to be like someone if you admire them for all their qualities and values. These are the people that set the will to succeed in us. ‘Being yourself’ does not necessarily mean being 100% different to everyone else, it can mean taking little pieces from others that fit with the type of person you might one day want to be. Don’t be an actor playing a role that someone else created, write your own character and pull inspiration from others if you need to.

Stop caring what other people think and share that mentality

Most of us (girls) tone ‘ourselves’ down a li’l bit for public consumption. Tell us to be ‘ourselves’, you’re more than likely going to get 60% crazy, 30% emotion and 10% GIRLS season 4. It’s incredibly difficult to stop caring what people think of you, our day to days are plagued with constructing perfect stories of our lives through social media. But while it’s hard to let go of the ego, I imagine this is one of the greatest steps in the direction towards ‘just being yourself’. It requires you to be honest and even speak up when you don’t want to, to listen to your gut instincts, to not be afraid of sometimes being an outcast, and to most importantly recognise when someone is also being authentic with you. The more you liken yourself with people also trying to be ‘themselves’ the more compelled you will be to pursue that same goal.

It doesn’t have to happen over night

Lot’s of things can happen over night, like baking a cake or making a baby, but becoming ‘yourself’ is not one of them. As humans we are in constant evolve. Everything you experience continues to add to the person you are and will become, so the whole ‘being yourself’ thing is a never ending project and you should become accustomed to working on it on a frequent turn around.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should

At the risk of sounding like a Full House episode, someone once told me “Don’t choose opportunity, choose opportunity that faces in the direction of your dreams”, which reminded me that the in order to have dreams we must do things ‘ourselves’ in order to achieve them, which requires us to not always do things others are doing. Once again, this is part of growing up and being challenged by these types of situations highlights our independent strengths and weaknesses that inevitably make us who we are.

While these tips build a relative foundation for ‘just being yourself’ there’s still no distinct guide on exactly how to do it. Possibly the best advice is that no else in the world is you, but you. So perhaps we should stop confusing people by saying ‘be yourself’ all the time and replace it with something a little more inspiring like ‘be the self you’ve always dreamed of being’.

Then maybe we might just find ourselves.

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dating, geny, surfing

Because at the time it was cool


I grew up in the time of the belly button piercing. A time when trampolines had visibly lethal springs and kids broke their legs on pogo sticks. It was the late 90s and if you weren’t surfing after school then you were curling up on the couch with your Uncle Toby’s yoghurt topped muesli bar and getting ready for the next episode of Heartbreak High. Most girls sat leg locked sporting their latest Ryan Sheppers’ sweater, his giant sweat banded head splayed across the minimal contours of their chest. The rest stabbed away at inanimate parcels of flesh, mum’s bloodied sewing needle in hand, hoping this was finally the episode where Drazic took his shirt off.

LET ME BE POPULAR
There’s a certain type of person that gets a belly button ring. Turns out that person’s not really me. But because Alison McGaw had one with a big turquoise dangly ring, it didn’t stop me from trying. Alison McGaw was that girl. Skin of bronze and a shiny flaxen mane reminiscent of a scandinavian summer sun. She was every teen boys dream. She lived in the glow of the male gaze, the closest they’d ever come to Summer Bay’s Bec Cartwright. She wore the latest Havaianas and dated the hottest semi-average surfers in the school, the ones that owned white Oakleys and drew Stussy signs on their text books. And somehow, in the time between 8th grade maths and science, I decided that a belly button piercing and hot surfer babes were inextricably tied. A beautiful marriage of accessories that, if captured, could coast me into the sweet stages of popularity, free of high school angst and puberty blues.

It was a weird era, OK. Kids were confused. Velcro wallets were still a thing. People liked break-dancing and there were many many Fast and the Furious movies in development. It was a period marked by the wholesale absorption of surfing into popular culture across Australia, largely driven by the accessibility of Sun-In. A time when there were no SUPs and the most annoying people in the water were swimmers.

A window of starkly confronting contrasts presented themselves pre Centenary; Paddle Pops were still 75  cents and the internet was making lots of noise not yet understood by way of our own youthful ignorance. It was a time of censored exploration, boys had bad manners and according to alcohol everything required incomprehensible amounts of sugar and fluorescent colour. Surfing was a big thing and your gear dictated your flimsy state in the hierarchy of cool, Billabong being at its peak. Yes, consumerism was abounding but people still hated advertising. So, jabbing needles into ourselves with the only high being shiny body adornment was not the weirdest thing going around. And, if someone were giving out awards for self-body modification I would certainly not be receiving Best & Fairest.

I never got that piercing. My mother caught me half way through entry point, with an ice-cube on one side of my belly button and a big shiny Singer needle on the other. Hot surfer boys and beach babe life were a distant reality. I was destined to remain in the inferior land of chubby academia for a few years yet.

THE GOLDEN DAYS

As it does, time goes on. The cycle of life continues, as David Attenborough would say. Beverley Hills 90210 caught a second win and Heartbreak High was probably sold off to some Japanese production company. It was 2005, organic products still hung in the periphery and sun safety was not yet a prerequisite to peer pressure. The internet was really fingering the world for the first time and just like a couple of fondling 15 year olds, no one knew what was coming. A proliferation of discman jokes proved the brink of the digital evolution. But, most importantly, true to Nature’s sick humour, Alison McGaw had well and truly peaked at the age of 14 and by now had inherited her mother’s staunch figure and overall rotundness.

It really was the Golden Days. And for a coastal populace surfers were the be all and end all. With the help of the Marie Claire sealed section we were blossoming into women and surfer boys into mostly immature surfer men. An age where surfers stuck out like a beautiful tanned thumb and the Gold Coast was a somewhat appealing getaway. The majority of us had not yet discovered anorexia but were incredibly aware of the allure of ‘thin’. Life had become more of a contradiction and still, the one thing that was not confusing were surfers. Good old reliable surfers, marked by a certain swagger and a tang on their tongue. Easy to pick amongst the sea of skaters, goths, nerds, metal heads, footy guys and general misfits. Yes, like most confusing times we make life easier for ourselves by boxing people in.

People will tell me that surfers have never been characterised, that it’s a lifestyle, that something something “how ignorant of you to stigmatise”. I know that to be true to a certain extent, I’m not so intellectually lazy to think we’re all made from a specific selection of cookie cutters. But if science and a little thing called semiotics, the study of signs, has taught me anything, it’s that there were intrinsic signifiers around these subcultures, ones that allowed us to make sense of the chaos of an impending digital world. A world that would diversify even the most typical of characters.

If not, why had I felt the need to steal my brothers Rip Curl boardshorts to wear to the swimming carnival? Why were people that still wore Oakley’s now outcasts? Why did I actually start surfing at the age of 17 instead of just finding a surfer boyfriend? Why did I think Manly was heaven on earth when I hadn’t really ventured anywhere else? Why was Billabong going public? Why did I pretend to read surf magazines when really I was way deep in Tom Wolfe and anything from Emily Bronte. Why was Mick Fanning considered good looking? Why was Luke Stedman the hottest man in a young girls world? All things I can only answer like this, “because at the time, it was cool”.

Everything can be explained by this single statement. Anything that matters to us in our formative years can be associated with this. ‘Cool’ had undeniable weight in our lives and surfing was fucking cool. Surfing was the shit. Just like Skylines were cool to dickheads, surfing and all that related to it allowed us to figure stuff out. Identifying others in this way gave us passage to identify ourselves and our place in the greater world. Similarly, having a surfer boyfriend allowed us to feel a part of something. We belonged and like traffic lights, we knew when to come and go. When things were vague or ‘orange’ we knew when to slow down. Surfing made sense. We understood surfing “because it was cool”.

COOL DONT PAY THE BILLS

By 2009 I had over indulged. For years surfing and surfer boys had been my gateway drug. I was the fat kid at a child’s birthday party that circled the food table like a shark. My brain had been baked in a salty oven and it needed to cool.

I was in my early 20s, I had in some small part imprinted my name on most Australian surf mags and to be fair, many surf journos were lyrically experimenting with their writing styles, and it was good. A sense of raw authenticity was emerging with styles mimicking that of Bukowski and Kerouac. It was cliche but it was a pleasant dilution. But even still, with this diverse injection of flavour, the world of surfing was small, and I longed for big.

Beaches, bikinis and sunsets took a back seat. Surf commerce was dying a slow death. I wasn’t interested in who the hottest surfer was and my superficial views of ‘surfers’ was at an all time high. The metro-sexual trend had taken full effect and surfing suddenly represented narrow-mindedness, lack of ambition and an obstacle to personal growth, for this reason I didn’t want to be with or date a surfer. Instead, I spent time with tech heads that filled my brain with concepts like augmented reality, visionaries that broke down mental barriers, and writers whom opened my mind to philosophy. I started engaging with people I never usually would have associated with. The world was a different place, it was bigger, scarier but exciting, it became a place with more opportunity.

Sometimes I think the shift was about the coin. A drift subliminally related to money. When I was 21 my brother asked me “Do you really just want to write for surf mags? There’s not much money in that.” And at the time I thought, yeah this is the best, what a great lifestyle as I collected shrapnel from bottoms of bags for a morning coffee. Money prevails. Money talks. And I was listening to that debilitating internal echo of “cool don’t pay the bills, honey”.

OOOP THERE GOES GRAVITY

Listening to people flex their intellectual muscle can often be much more of a show than a process of learning. It’s amazing how unbearably obnoxious life becomes the more educated and evolved you become, plus the further you distance yourself from saltwater. And, while I’d been away from surfing and it’s cultural intricacies for quite some time, I’d also failed to realise that that too was in a state of constant evolve, for the good.

It’s 2015 and the reality is, I’ve missed surfing. I’ve missed the ease of life that surfing so casually brings. I’ve missed the tan. I’ve missed the daily dose of naturally occurring magnesium; the most powerful relaxation mineral readily available to us. I’ve missed the menagerie of colourful characters that inhabit this world of surfing, whom are now a diverse bunch of creatures that see the sport as an achor and not a box. I’ve even missed the odd dickhead that’s still doing burnouts in his ‘98 Skyline in the car park. And, without leaving shallowness in the 90s, I’ve really missed the man babes.

Of course, people don’t really run belly button piercings these days, and believe me I’d judge you if you did, but I do think it’s become a beautifully disorganised motley of intrigue. Sure, you can sense someone’s a surfer, but you can’t really define them by it, just like you shouldn’t define someone by their job or who they date. Cool then and now are two totally different things. Cool is about the new, unexplored, anything that will ‘blow your mind’ instead of your gear. It’s about a personal sense of awe over the collective. Let’s not forget the influence of the world wide web and how for surfers, that has made a big world small and a small world big. Allowing the sport and lifestyle to access innovation, technology and locations like never before. The fact surfing is becoming more and more diluted, a sobering hybrid with other sports, is testament to the fact it’s more of a lifestyle than a culture in which to assimilate.

Sure, I’m older and wiser and I don’t care about accessories anymore, so my epiphany is hardly isolated. But, surfing again made me feel grounded, it restored something I felt I’d lost. ‘Cool’ was just a pre-meditated sidekick to surfing I didn’t really understand. I’ve stopped blaming surfing for my season of creative conflict, and I thank it for pushing me outside of my comfort zone. And while this ‘great return to surfing’ may sound pretty soppy and lame to you, I’m loving it, because to me, right now, it’s fucking cool.

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dating, geny, men

Excuses girls give to avoid single shaming


Girls talk a lot of sh*t when it comes to being single; most of it depicting their ‘singleness’ as a hand they’ve chosen rather than dealt. Why? Because apparently being single is socially regressive and closely equated to having a disease, maybe something like Herpes or not owning a Netflix subscription.

Despite its seemingly embarrassing nature, being single isn’t actually a disease, nor is it a rite of passage. It’s just a fact of life, like cellulite or your mum adding you on Facebook. Everyone is single at some point. Sigh. But, some of us hate to admit it and instead come up with vague, self-validating reasons as to why we don’t have a boyfriend.

 Excuses, lies, social fabrications, whatever picture you want to paint, they’re there to serve a purpose – to make a single gal feel better everytime a friend finds a boyfriend or, worse yet, gets engaged. These are five of the most common excuses to avoid when you feel like you’re being single shamed.

“I intimidate men”

The mother of all excuses, often seeded by someone in your family or social circle that worships the ground you walk on. It goes a little something like this, “You’re just too pretty and smart and independent. You’re so confident, boys are scared of girls like you”.

 Single girls take pride in this reason, it massages their ego. In reality you may very well be an alpha female: you’re probably smart, independent and beautiful, but so are a lot of other girls, other girls with boyfriends. In this case, your triple threat combo has probably led to some serious walls, which men find hard to breakdown. While this reason might make you feel better, it’s relatively transparent and sort of just makes you seem needy and narcissistic. If you feel single shaming coming in hot, cool it down with a “I’m just wading in the dating pool right now”. You’ll feel better for the humility.

“I just came out of a pretty messy relationship”

Remember that time when you went to a dinner party and everyone was in a couple and they were all like “do you even go here?” Then you queued your ‘I just broke up with someone and I’m pretty cut up about it’ mixtape, which really sounds like a rendition of “we actually broke up 2 years ago and I can’t get over it”.

 This may be true, your ex may have been the love of your life, but unfortunately he is the essence of his namesake, “your ex” and after two years it’s pretty safe to say he’s going to remain all the way back there in the past, just like your sex life. Try not to burden everyone with your First Girl Problems because this makes you sound high-maintenance. Go with something real and something casual, “I just haven’t found anyone I’m interested in dating yet”.

“Men have too many feelings”

You are a badass player. You are way too much of a hot sassy bitch to be needy. People applaud your heart of stone because you’re a stone cold fox.You are pretty much Chloe Sevigny and you have all the men feeling the feels.

 If you’re checking these boxes like men are checking you out, then they probably do have a lot of feelings for you, most likely in their pants, maybe sometimes in their hearts. But, if this is truly happening then you probably don’t feel the need to give an excuse for your singleness. This single shaming reason is reserved for those that want to appear unattached and unattainable. You may be slightly insecure or perhaps a little wounded from bad experiences with past relationships. Here’s a hint, it’s not conducive to your love life to tell people/guys you have no feelings, it’s an immediate roadblock to romance. If you’re looking to appear cool and a bit blase go with “I’m having fun being single but wouldn’t say no if the right guy came along”.

“I’m just focusing on my career for a while”

No you’re fucking not. No one is. What you’re focusing on is the best combination cocktail to keep you from quitting and spending your limited super on a mediterranean getaway. We all know there is always time for dating. Everyone knows that. Amal Alamuddin knows that. The “focusing on my career” excuse is a timeless one that mostly comes across as a little immature. It’s as bad as “I just don’t have the time” or “I want to get back to knowing the real me before I find someone”.

As humans, we’re made to love and be loved, to deny yourself that in exchange for excelling in your career seems quite depressing. Sure people will be impressed by your tenacity and resilience, but ultimately they’ll probably just feel sorry for you. Let’s play with something a little more upbeat and open-ended like, “I’m not looking for anything serious right now”.

“I have commitment issues”

The commitment issues excuse is very transparent and something that belongs to “I’m scared of getting hurt and I want you to pursue me and prove your worth”. As it slides out of your mouth, you secretly hope it paints you as a vixen that’s hard to nail down. You envision yourself as a Tumblr girl, half naked in CK jeans smoking a marlboro and staring at the camera like “you wish you had this many likes”. But that’s not really true, you’re the girl doing insta mainies at 11pm and puffing on a winnie in the blacked out corridor in your low-rent apartment block. This reason will never make you seem as sexy and wanted as you might think it does.

Believe it or not, men are far more emotionally evolved than we give them credit for, they are beings with desires, needs and feelings that need tending to, just like women. While they like the chase, if you seem closed off and unreceptive to their advances, they will very quickly halt their steps in your cutesy tic-tac quest for love. Next time someone asks you why you’re single, better to go with “I’m not really sure what I’m looking for in a partner”.

Single shaming can be confronting and no one likes to feel romantically inferior or inept, but it’s the people who are able to be honest  that will be granted a healthy life dose of clarity, confidence, courage and commitment. Being single is a choice, not a disease and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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Uncategorized

Greater expectations…Part 1


I’m sure some of my mother’s most consuming thoughts exist around her only daughter’s relationship status. Will she ever meet someone? Is she even going to get married? Will I ever get the chance to babysit a grandchild instead of feeding 10 cats while she treks the Inca Trail and finds her inner self?

I’m sure her most unrelenting fear is that all of the above may well be answered by a rather deflating ‘no’.

My dad thinks I work too much. He tells me my “expectations are too high”. Of course, he’s referring to the expectations I place on myself and concurrently the future man/men in my life. What he really wants to say is, “You’re only 27, but I’m worried you’re going to become one of those high-flying business women that has to end up freezing their eggs and holidaying in Florida with her dog”. He’s perplexed by my total disregard for timeline and the ticking clock that beats below my belly button.

When I was 24 my older brother told me “you’d better find a boyfriend before you got left on the shelf”. Like I was a product to be purchased before moved to the miscellaneous discount basket, right next to the half price shampoo. The whole concept was new to me. How could someone else choose me off the shelf when, in my eyes, I was the one doing the shopping?

Last month over dinner I told my 83 year old grandmother that right now, “I could think of nothing worse than being married, with a baby, and a mortgage on a 2-bedroom house in the suburbs”. Not because I don’t want to get married and have children, but because when I do, it’s not going to be the result of settling with some guy I met at the local pub after we had a two year semi-decent relationship then tied the knot at some equally blemishing venue. If that was me right now, it would mean I had given in to something short of remarkable, a relationship that was good but never quite great. I had to tell my Grandma to stop setting me up with 38 year old Organ players like I’m some desperado that’s filtered through all her e-Harmony options.

I think Granny D’s resigned her dreams of ever watching me walk down the aisle in her lifetime.

I can’t blame them for caring, they’re probably just scared I have commitment issues and that I’ll end up all alone. But, I’m not uneasy about being alone because the thought of spending a life tied to mediocrity is a fate far more frightening. Settling; The very word is sad. So monotonous. Like middle management or leftover pizza. It’s dripping in closeted dreams and self resignation. It’s not for me. People must misinterpret my choices, thinking that I’ll choose business or career or self development over love, but that’s not what it’s about for me at all, and I guess in some way or another it took me a long time to admit that to myself. To admit that I wanted something so great and all consuming that it may very well not exist. That at 70, I want to turn to the grey haired man that walks beside me and still be blown away by overwhelming feelings of admiration, respect and love. The constant awe of “I ended up with you”.

I know, the soppiness even sickens me to my sassy core.

A friend on her own singledom commented, “Maybe I screwed up my prospects for everlasting love by becoming too independent to compromise on anything and, by having met so many men around the world that meet my expectations if only for a time, I compare them to each other and then dismiss them for not being the sum of their predecessors.” And that’s the thing. Yeah, it’s true that the ‘pool’ is drying up, but it’s not wholly because the amount of men are diminishing – it’s more that as you become more self aware of what it is you like and dislike, and that is a compounding taste, the type of men that will satisfy you become fewer and fewer. The pool party ain’t over till the right guy swims.

Cultural analysts might call bluff and deduce my or our pursuits to a Gen Y thing. Siting that I’m nothing more than a young protagonist believing she’s the main character in a very special story. A girl raised with “a sense of optimism and unbounded possibility”, inevitably doomed to be perpetually unhappy, as described by Tim Urban in his deconstruction of why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy. If that’s the case, I’m not really sure how I’m meant to re-work this all star romcom into a mid-morning d-grade soap opera, or why the fuck I’d even want to. I can’t imagine in 30 years looking over to my husband on our wedding anniversary, holding his hand and saying “I’m so glad I reduced my expectations and finally found you”. Sorry Tim, whatever beige-vanilla slice you’re selling, I’m not buying it.

A friend recently told me I was “a fan of impossible relationships” insinuating that I indulge in things so complex because I hold the knowledge and security that they’ll never come to fruition. Something that strikes me as very “non-committal”. I’d challenge that by saying the right term would be remarkable relationships and everything I’ve experienced thus far has been two scoops short of a sundae. I haven’t limited myself either or placed restrictions on the types of people I’ve dated, apart from the fact that they must be mentally stimulating. And to be honest, every guy I’ve been with has taught me something new and possibly pushed me that extra bit closer to helping me find exactly what it is I’m looking for.

The same friend helped me realise I haven’t been walking in to relationships understanding that the final destination is to “fall deeply in love and have babies”. Instead my thoughts are more focused on whether we are both our better selves as a result of being together. And, ‘great’ doesn’t mean ‘perfect job, car, health, functioning family and biceps’ nor does it mean ‘tall, dark and handsome’ – it means great for me, someone that fits, this whispering feeling that ‘this is right’.

It would be easier if there were material things to tick off the list instead of having to invest time into investigating the possibilities of a chemical connection – but I guess that’s half the fun, isn’t it? It feels a burdensome really, this pursuit of remarkability, coursing through your veins pumping its wanting way right into your fingertips. Sometimes I wish I could numb my expectations until I remember how dulling mediocrity can feel and then I resort back to all the amazing things I want to experience in life and who I want to experience them with.

But there is nothing more frustrating than people constantly asking you where that person is and why haven’t you found them yet. Some drastic things would have to occur for me to change my values, wants and desires. Something I know probably isn’t quite achievable.

So, to people that tell me to settle down and reduce my expectations I say “how about chime out, mate. Next time you come over for dinner expecting spaghetti bolognese, I’ll serve you up a nice big bowl of plain pasta and send you on your merry way.”

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