I was quietly singing the lyrics to ‘Bring It All Back’ whilst sat at my desk in the office yesterday afternoon, when, half way through the second chorus, one of my colleagues laughed a laugh of disbelief at my preposterous behaviour. Towards the end of the third verse another colleague mentioned that they were worried about my mental health. Apparently this is not acceptable behaviour. It’s official: Society has decided that I’m an oddball.
I’m fairly sure that I’m really quite okay with this. After all, I’m not a maniac, or a trainspotter, yet.
I originally titled this piece ‘Embracing the Oddball Within“, but then I had a good think about the lyrics to that S Club 7 hit record – and they are ‘totes apropes’ to the theme of this blog. Despite the fact it was incredibly uncool to do so, I loved this song as a spotty 15yr old. I don’t think I ever paid much attention to the lyrics though, I was undoubtedly more focused on the upbeat melody, and how much I was crushing on Rachel Stevens.
Side note: I served Rachel Stevens whilst working in TGI Fridays once, she sat in the smoking section and puffed on cigs between courses. I loved her even more for this. I was starstruck, but she was super chill. I thought I had a chance, but she got with that handsome dude from Holby City instead. My love life – a series of near misses since 1999. (read more on that here)
Accepting yourself, oddball or not, is ‘bringing it all back to you’. Here are some of the lyrics to jog your memory:
“Hold on to what you try to be
When the world is on your shoulders
Just smile and let it go
If people try to put you down
Just walk on by don’t turn around
You only have to answer to yourself
Don’t you know it’s true what they say
That life, it ain’t easy
But your time’s coming around
So don’t you stop tryin’
Don’t stop, never give up
Hold your head high and reach the top
Let the world see what you have got
Bring it all back to you”
“Let the world see what you have got”
OK, S Club, I will, read on…
I’m a fairly run-of-the-mill chap. Or at least I was. I loved playing and watching football; I enjoyed drinking pints of ale with my mates; I studied for a sensible degree (Economics), then got myself a sensible job (Project Manager), with a sensible company (IBM), which has in turn, become a reasonably lucrative and stable career; I lost my mind dancing to electronic music in my twenties; I tried to chat up girls, invariably unsuccessfully; I occasionally took recreational drugs; I stimulated my brain through my work, and by reading the news (and crime novels). I satisfied my extroverted need for human connection by hanging out with friends and family, normally in the pub, or a restaurant, or at the football.
I also went on holidays to places like Ibiza, the French Alps, Thai island hopping, New York, Munich, Cape Town, Portugal, and Amsterdam…. Where I ate food, drank booze, and tried to chat up girls. Very socially acceptable, mainstream holiday destinations and past times.
At that point in my life, it was all great fun, easy and hedonistic. I didn’t have to think about much, I just got on with it. I was, without doubt, a predictable creature of tried and tested habits. And as such I found it quite easy to connect with other people who also liked football, and girls, and beer, and KFC. I love my diet now, but fuck, how I miss the occasional Zinger Tower box meal with a side of battered hot wings!
Fast forward to today. I am still pretty conventional in some ways, but I sense I’m not in others. More to the point, people have started to tell me I’m not normal, on an almost daily basis. Some of the contents of posts on this blog likely prove, to some extent, that they’re correct. I met a bunch of new people whilst camping over the weekend, who, after quizzing me relentlessly on why I have a sauna, probably thought – ‘this guy is a bit left field’.
My focus on optimal health following a period of bad health puts me squarely in the ‘weird’ category. I don’t drink tap water. I don’t eat McDonald’s. I think it’s worth paying the extra $$$ for organic, grass fed, local. I don’t take pills when I get a headache, I try to identify the source of the headache and address that instead. And so on. As such I’m deemed strange. That’s fine by me.
My dive down the rabbit hole of physical health has inevitably led to a similar dive down the one of mental health. I’m no longer just selective with what I put into my body, but also into my mind. Chucking a big mac, large fries and chocolate shake down your gob, is no worse than chucking negative messages, hatred, or porn into your brain. Head and heart; mind, body and soul – It’s all interconnected.
Rabbit holes they truly are, and once you’re down one, it’s bloody hard to get back out.
I still like playing football, but I rarely watch it all that much nowadays. I still enjoy the taste of alcohol, but I rarely get excited about getting fucked up like I used to. Oh how I used to relish getting fucked up. I still love food, but two weeks ago I went 4 days completely without it, and now I can’t wait to see if I can go 5, 7 or even 10 days (read more on this here). Rather than go out for drinks with a cute South African on Wednesday night, I went home to sit, ponder and work this blog post. I relentlessly consume literature and podcasts on alternative ways to think about, and live, life. I spend on average 4 hours a week in my infra red sauna (read more on this here). On Tuesday night I spent two hours listening to a podcast about why we’re attracted to certain types of people, whilst laying in a salt bath. In September I went to a Tony Robbins seminar on how to reach your potential, and absolutely lost my mind for a solid two weeks after (read more on this here). It was possibly the best two weeks of my life. I’ve never really got on with cocaine, but if cocaine felt like how I did after that seminar, I would be hoovering the stuff up every day.
Is this ‘normal‘? I don’t really know what ‘normal‘ is, but certainly what used to be my ‘normal‘, is not my ‘normal‘ anymore. I look around, at what appears to me, as being quite a sick (mentally and physically) society, and to be honest, see little attraction in the ‘normal’. ‘Abnormal’ appears to be a safer, and more interesting bet.
I met a girl recently, with a beautiful smile, and a cracking spirit. I fancied her instantly. Occasionally, albeit all too rarely, you meet someone who triggers something deep down inside of you, she achieved this within about five minutes of us saying hello. We went on three dates, but it ended there, on her terms. Like most people I meet, this girl liked a drink, and the old me, before the walls of physical well-being came crashing down, would have happily kept up with her. When we met up for the third time I didn’t really want to hit the sauce, but I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’, so we polished off two bottles of wine. I became flushed in the face, experienced involuntary muscle spasms throughout my body, and my brain stopped working properly. I went into a sort of foggy autopilot mode. Me and the yeast/sugar in wine just don’t get along sometimes. My taste buds love it.
I turned it over in my mind on why she had ended it there, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. When I got up in the morning I had barely slept and looked like the guy on the left in my first post (link here). I looked ill. It took three days of carefully managing my nutrition for my body and mind to start working properly again. It’s no way to start a relationship, putting yourself in physical jeopardy, trying to be someone you can’t be, for the sake of pleasing the other person. Women are perceptive creatures, in my experience, far more so than men. They know when something is not right.
I’ve written about this before, my relationship with alcohol (Link here). I love it. Correction: I used to love it. My body now hates it, it’s hard to love something that makes you ill and wrecks your life. “wrecks” – I appreciate this sounds dramatic, after all, I’m not an alcoholic, but we’re not talking about the odd bad hangover after a big blow out here. A bottle of wine can cause my body to dysfunction for days. I’ve come to the sensible conclusion that because it messes with my physical health, it messes with my mental health, and as a result it is having a severely detrimental impact on my quality of life.
I think the point I’m labouring to make here is; that I’ve changed. Physically and mentally. They say people don’t change, but to some extent, I have. The problem I seem to currently have with this, however, is that whilst I have changed in many of my ways of thinking, many of my habits seem locked in the past, and therefore conflict with where my mind/body/spirit wants me to go. This is something I need to work on.
I had an old model for life that no longer fits. The old model looked something like this:
Work hard, get a good job, earn lots of money, drink wine, buy a nice car, meet a partner, settle down, drink wine, buy a nice house, renovate the house, buy a second nice car, have kids, drink lots more wine, go on nice holidays, go to the theatre, drink wine, have grandkids, retire, play golf, potter around in the garden, then die.
I appreciate how utterly wanky this is about to sound, as it is a perfectly acceptable model, and one that many aspire to, and are happy with. However, at some point I stopped believing or desiring a lot of it. Before I moved to Australia; I had my own property; I earned lots of money; drove a nice car; went on nice holidays; ate in nice restaurants; went to the theatre; was surrounded by great friends and family. And yet, for whatever reason, I was discontent.
When you stop accepting everything at face value, and start questioning EVERYTHING, there is hopefully only one outcome – ANSWERS. OK, maybe two outcomes; answers, and angst.
I don’t think I’ve found all the answers I need yet. I’m fairly sure what I need is a new focus, or purpose, to replace the old model, to which I still occasionally cling. As 2018 draws to a close, a year which has turned out to be deeply introspective and challenging, I look forward to 2019 with high high hopes. A year of questions will hopefully be followed with a year of answers. Australia, in its infinite wisdom, has just granted me permanent residency, a goal which has been in my cross-hairs for the past three years. Freed from the restrictive bonds of my work visa, no longer legally tied to a job position, or a geographical place, I have my freedom back to explore, should I so desire.
Maybe I am an oddball, or maybe I’m just evolving (finally) to meet the reality of my existence. I don’t feel odd. Au contraire. I feel excited.
Don’t you know it’s true what they say
Things are sent to try you
But your time’s coming around
So don’t you stop tryin’
Sage words, S Club, sage indeed.
Footnote: S Club
7 3 are performing in Sydney in February – does anyone want to come with? It will be cheesy, shit and a lot of fun.
Footnote: If you have been reading the blog for a while, it may sound, reading this, like I am going round in circles. I think this would be a fair assessment. Apologies if I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I’m not going to beat myself up for taking a while to figure stuff out, and implement changes to long established habits. I have found writing deeply cathartic, and incredibly useful for processing my thoughts and emotions. Publishing my words makes me feel more accountable to succeeding in difficult challenges. I also hope that occasionally my words bring support or reassurance to the odd person out there who may be struggling with something. If you’ve ever thought about keeping a journal, I implore you to do so. This blog is essentially my journal. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.