the stagnation of ‘having it all’

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I was really, really happy before Christmas. The happiest I’d been in years. Life was gliding and it felt fantastic.

You can guess where this is going. In January of this year, things went downhill and life got bleak. Again. There was no life; I breathed, ate, slept, but nothing more.

Thankfully I have readjusted, and life has colour again. I want to savour, not survive. In the past three months I have done more than I ever did in the five-ish months before Christmas. There have been dips and dark days, but I plough ahead because I know I want to, not because I have to.

I truly believe that I ‘had it all’ before Christmas; the soft contentedness was almost childlike. Nothing could – and nothing did – harm me. This was wonderful, but it was stagnant. Deeply, deeply stagnant. I relaxed into complacency, dropping me further into stagnation.

Fast forward to this year in all its painful glory, and I have accomplished far more. Searing trauma has provided me with contrast; if life can be terrible, life can be great. If I plough ahead and focus on this greatness, the contrast intensifies and life gets better. Of course no-one would want the pain to get worse, but viewing it through the lens of contrast can make the great even greater.

What I’m really trying to say is that ‘having it all’ is not what ‘having it all’ is built up to be. All you need is a taste; any more and you are sucked into a life unlived. A content life unlived is still a life unlived.  We need the pain to encourage us to live our lives out of our own accord.

Don’t let your life glide past. You really don’t need to have it all.

Love and luck,

Clodagh X

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reflections on college | university experience

Going to college was, surprisingly, not something I thought about too much when I was younger. I loved to imagine what job I would have in the future, where I would live, the people I would meet – but never what I would study at university. In retrospect, I believe this was an early sign that third level education would not be the formative experience it constitutes for so many. To say that it would have no impact on my life would be an understatement, but it was not to be a period of transformation.

As time went on I became more aware that change was imminent. Having said this, it wasn’t until I was about 15 that I had made (what I thought was) a firm decision regarding what I wanted to pursue in college. I was convinced that I wanted to study psychology, given my fascination with the human mind. My outlook shifted when I thought more pragmatically; i.e. what I excelled in at school versus what made me cry on a regular basis. The latter being anything maths and science related, I veered away from psychology and chose to do a bachelor of arts in languages. Fast forward through exams, results and college offers, I have a place on my course and I’m ready to go.

This is when things go downhill. Sort of. My experience in college has been odd in the sense that I haven’t hated it, but I definitely haven’t loved it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so indifferent towards something. Academically speaking it’s all been fine, but to this day I feel utterly unstimulated. This combination of indifference and lack of stimulation has not been a good experience. I cannot count the number of times I’ve mentally destroyed myself with regret, agonising over what could have been if I’d chosen a course I was genuinely interested in. Normally this doesn’t last any longer than a day, and I have ploughed on through the very worst of essays and assignments.

The social element of college has also been a mixed bag. I’ve met some wonderful friends over the years, and for that I am incredibly grateful. Many of the people I have crossed paths with in college have restored my faith in humanity, in stark contrast to my experience in secondary school. Having said all of this, the way in which I view socialising has changed quite a lot. If you read my previous post on what constitutes fun, you will know that I’m not really one for parties or going out. Much of the social scene in college revolves around parties, drinking, etc etc. As you can imagine this isn’t something that sits well with me, but it’s no big deal. You can navigate your way around it quite easily.

I would love to say that going to college has been a worthwhile experience, but I’m honestly unsure if I would stretch that far. What I will say is that I have a far healthier relationship with how I view educational institutions; secondary school was downright hellish at times, but I feel as though many of my wounds have healed and I am ready to move on. This wouldn’t have been possible without learning that I could be happy in a school-like setting – i.e. I would still feel terrible if I hadn’t chosen to go to college.

I’ve re-written the end of this piece about six times, but I can’t figure out what the most effective conclusion would be. I don’t even know if there is a conclusion to all of this. If I don’t stop writing here i’ll just end up rambling (because that isn’t what I’ve been doing for this entire piece), so here are a few things I’ve learned from my experience in university. Some ‘reflections’, if you will.

  • I hate working in groups; always have, probably always will. I tried to get involved with society work (we have clubs and societies in most Irish third level institutions), but… it’s a no from me.
  • You are your single biggest priority.
  • Education is important, but it comes in many many forms. Living in this world is an education in and of itself.
  • People can change, for better or for worse.
  • Facing fears is important, but you don’t have to like what it is you once feared. I don’t fear travelling for long periods of time anymore, but I still don’t like it.
  • Routine is essential; much and all as you may dream of days off and lie-ins on a week day while you’re at school, a lack of structure can create all sorts of practical and emotional problems.
  • Disillusionment is worse than hatred. It’s better to feel something than nothing at all. I would honestly say that my worst maths classes were better than some days I’ve spent in college feeling lifeless.
  • It may be true that quitters never win, but quitters also have a chance to move on and try news things. Giving up is not a sign of weakness. So, maybe quitters do win from time to time.
  • The whole ‘you’re only young once’ thing is true, but you can adapt it to your own wants and needs. I may not go out at night all that often, but that doesn’t mean I’m not experimenting with new things.

If you’ve reached the end of this and thought ‘why the f*ck did I read this whole thing when I could have just scrolled to that list at the end’ – you could have, but a lot of the above wouldn’t have made sense. I hope I set the scene appropriately, and that you don’t feel like I did in maths class all those years ago.

If you’re about to start college, or if you’re already wrist-deep into your degree, I wish you the very best of luck in the future. The present is not forever, realistically we’re all gonna be just fine. Or so we hope. It’s all to play for.

Love and luck,

Clodagh X

moulding emotion | look at a feeling, let it pass

It starts in your gut. You feel your stomach churn, and soon your mind starts spinning. These cogs turn together, forcing your mouth into action so that, before you know it, you’ve said something you’ll live to regret. All because of a feeling that spun out of control.

This is an all-too-familiar experience for the majority of the human race. Someone says something, we take it personally and bam! the insecurities tumble out at record speed. It is phenomenal how any issue we have with the person facing us can be compressed into a little package of hate within seconds of a misinterpreted remark.

The same thing can happen when we are faced with unpleasant circumstances. Combine this with a lack of control over said circumstances and you have enough fuel to keep the cogs whirring until you’re engulfed in nothing but feeling. All rationality goes out the window, leaving you at the mercy of your primal instincts.

While you can’t necessarily stop a feeling from emerging, you can stop it from developing. All you have to do is acknowledge its presence, and let it pass. Don’t act on it. If that means staying silent for a second, or pausing for breath, don’t hesitate to do so. Just be aware that you’re feeling angry or hurt, even unloved, and allow this awareness to give you a heightened level of understanding. It is with this understanding that we can grow both internally and externally; our relationships with ourselves and others improve, and we ultimately live better lives.

This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way as I’ve grown up (I use the term ‘grow up’ pretty loosely as I still have an awful lot of growing up to do!). So many arguments and bad feelings could have been prevented if I’d just held myself back for a moment. When I did eventually figure all of this out – roughly when I was about 18 –  it was as if I’d been given a new power. I sincerely hope I’ve passed on this power by writing this post!

The next time an unwanted feeling starts growing inside of you, be aware that you do not have to give in to it. Look at it, and let it pass.

Love and luck,

Clodagh X

positive thinking – when positive thoughts lead to negative results | article

The concept of “positive thinking” is rampant in the modern age. One search of “#positivity” on Instagram produces over five million results – an overwhelming number of images all with one apparently simple aim: to encourage and to uplift. This, in principle isn’t a bad thing, nor is it an attempt to find the good in a bad situation. After all, as the old saying goes, “you can never have too much of a good thing”. But is this really the case?

While thinking positively is essential for our wellbeing, it must be executed in such a way that we consider the process itself rather than the end result.

I spoke to bestselling author Dr. Ian Robertson last year on this very topic – you can read the rest of the article here  . Enjoy!

Love and luck,

Clodagh X

hyperaware | productivity smells more grounded than achievement

Some may consider it neurotic to believe that the coaster facing the wrong way round on your kitchen table is having an impact on your thought process. At one level, maybe it is a little neurotic. Maybe you’d still rather have toast than cereal for breakfast. At another level, it is adding to the collection of thoughts circling your brain at this very moment in time, for better or for worse. Granted, a coaster isn’t going to radically change your world view, but let’s not be too literal about this. The point I’m getting at is that every thing, absolutely everything you see and do has an impact on your life, no matter how tiny that effect may be. The colour of your bedroom walls changes how you see the sun every morning, which changes how you wake up, which changes how your day begins. The misplaced coaster may bring you back to long-forgotten lost items, or times when you yourself were a little lost. Even the phrasing you use – lost, misplaced, wrong way around – can impact upon your mind in ways you wouldn’t normally consider.

Approaching our lives with this level of hyperawareness can be very useful. We become acutely aware of what lifts our mood, or what pulls it down.

We also gain the ability to construct an atmosphere that is conducive to a particular outcome. It can be as loose or rigid as it needs to be. For instance, I’m at my most productive when my jeans are tight and my hair is freshly washed. Perfume has to be pleasant ,but nothing fancy. If I smell ‘too nice’ I’m reminded of euphoria, the end result, something I mustn’t visualise until the work is done. Productivity smells more grounded than achievement.

If I want to feel creative, it’s ok for my hair to be a little greasy. Bare feet are a help rather than a hindrance, brightness is essential. I need to feel pleasant and at ease before I allow a rush of excitement to come through; the more relaxed I feel, the stronger the rush.

Sensitivity to one’s surroundings provides focus and, by default, allows for development in other areas. The capacity to conjure a feeling at will might just be what pushes you across the line. Or perhaps it simply gets you through your day. In any case, that upside down coaster could be doing a lot more than you think.