I’d Be Invisible

You know when you’re asked as a kid what superpower you would chose to have if you could? The answer has always been the same for me, without doubt or question; I would chose to have the power of invisibility.

The power to become invisible at will has always been enchanting to me. Perhaps it’s because I am someone who suffers from anxiety, perhaps it’s because I am cynical and instantly see threats around every corner and a potential bully in every set of eyes. Either way, invisibility seemed a perfect superpower to summon whenever it was needed.

If I could be invisible whenever I wanted, I could drift through the journey from flat into Uni, rather than have to look at every person crossing my path and wonder about all the thoughts which could possibly be crossing their mind. If I could be invisible, going to put the rubbish out wouldn’t have to be an ordeal, wondering whether I might see someone as I walk down the stairs and panic about what on earth I would say to them. If I could be invisible, I could attend lectures without feeling sick at the thought of other people seeing me.

In short, the shame and worry and wracking fear which churn my stomach would no longer plague me if I could summon my power of invisibility at the drop of a hat.

Perhaps then I would not be trapped inside my flat fearing the threats which lay outside my door, agonising over the assassins which I am convinced lie in wait for me. Invisibility could solve a lot of problems, it would be the superpower above all superpowers for people like me.

Therefore, it follows that people like me have to reconcile ourselves with the fact that invisibility is not a superpower we can conjure onto ourselves whenever our thoughts threaten to overcome us. Instead, we set about making ourselves appear and feel invisible instead. So, the next time you see someone with their hood pulled over their face or shaking when they hand the cashier their money, do not snicker and laugh or wonder ‘what the hell is their problem?’ Have some empathy and realise maybe, just maybe, they are wishing themselves invisible in that moment too.

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Am I Safe? The Fear of Prejudice

Some days I catch myself mid-thought,
Contemptuous in my assumptions
About the cruel masks people use to smile.
I think, ‘if they knew who I am really am,
They would cast their eyes the other way
Shake their head to rid themselves of my contagion’.
For, they do not know the cogs my mind is turning,
How my brain does not mirror my shell;
I am outsider to my own body,
A figure of revolted confusion, mingling,
Turning tables in their midst, under cover
Of darkness or the approach of a raging storm.
I am exactly as I seem if you know where to look.

Some poets and songwriters advise against describing exactly what it is that you have written about. They say that readers and listeners should come to their own conclusions about the contents of your art and that they should interpret it subjectively, adapting it to their own unique perspective. However, I always feel impelled to know what writers are thinking as they craft their pieces of work together, so I am going to break the rules and explain to you, as best I can, what this poem I wrote is about:

When people meet me in public, cross me in the street, glance at me across a supermarket aisle, they have no idea what is going on in my life. Some assume that I am female, especially if they hear my soft and quite highly pitched voice. Others assume that I am male because of the way I dress and attempt to present myself. As someone who is trans, I sometimes catch myself thinking about that stranger in the supermarket or in the street and asking myself ‘I wonder if they would hate me/be confused by me/judge me negatively if they knew that I was transgender’. Essentially, I wonder whether they would still glance at me nonchalantly or walk past me casually if they knew about my identity and who I truly am.

This is one aspect of how societal prejudice works. It sows seeds of doubt and fear in people’s mind. We question whether we would face repercussions from strangers in the street if they knew about our identity whether that be regarding our sexuality, faith, gender or many other things. Our worries about facing prejudice, which stems from the abuse we have seen online or experienced ourselves before, causes us to build walls around ourselves, as we divide ourselves away from people we cannot be sure are safe to be around. Being part of an oppressed group can, for this reason, be an isolating and anxious experience. Feeling safe is of the upmost importance but when you do not know who you can trust or you cannot gauge the reactions of people to your identity, it is difficult not to seal yourself off from the outside world simply as a precaution.

 

As ever feel free to reach out to me on my social accounts or drop a comment below if you are going through something similar or have any questions.

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

BIG MAGIC

Yesterday evening I finished reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and I feel lucky to have read a book that connected so profoundly with my own state of mind, my own needs and my own perspective. It reminded of a fact which I have forgotten since studying at University; that creating art can be fun. University puts so much emphasis on masterpieces and the genius of those who make it into the literary canon that I have forgotten the nuances of creative experience. This book reminded me not to put so much pressure on myself, I do not have to write pieces for the express purpose of them being profound or important, instead I can create and write for the joy of it.

Here are five of the most important lessons that I took from ‘Big Magic’:

1. Do not be fearful of your art, be playful and curious with it

I think that most people who create anything go through periods where they are too scared to pick up a pen, a paint brush or whatever their implement of choice because they are worried about the outcome. Either they are scared of people laughing at what they have created, they fear that they will feel let down by their own efforts or that they will not find any inspiration to engage with. Firstly, Gilbert reminds us that the act of just focusing on creating art in whatever form is a human victory in itself and if someone laughs at you for it then you can feel sorry for them for completely missing the point of a creative existence. Secondly, being self-critical is okay in small doses but once in a while we should give ourselves a pat on the back for just exercising our creative energies whether we created something we loved or not because at least we are teaching ourselves and bettering our creativity during the process. Thirdly, inspiration comes in many forms, sometimes it is clear and easy to decipher, at other times it seems to hide from us and we have to tease out it’s content bit by bit through being open and determined to find that next creative spark.

2. Do not take yourself too seriously, your art will suffer if your ego takes control

“How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation”

Something about this quote from the book really resonated with me. When I am going through patches where I feel that my creativity has dried-up and I am just producing inane drivel I feel so frustrated and angry at creativity, I blame it for leaving me adrift. However, there is no point on sitting around aimlessly waiting for a lightning bolt of genius to hit you and gift you the bulk of a novel on a silver platter. Equally there is no point in refusing to create in these dry patches because you believe that you have too much self-respect to create something anything less than greatness – that is your ego talking. Keep creating just for the sheer hell of it, this is your life and if you feel a calling to live your life creatively then you have to ride the rough with the smooth and keep exercising those creative energies whilst keeping the faith that the incomparable feeling of inspiration will visit you again when both you and it are ready.

3. You do not have to go through pain or misery to produce good and profound art

Creating should be fun, however this is never a point which is emphasised within the arts. Instead, I have been lectured numerous times on the individual pains which the great writers went through to write their famous works. It is almost like we are taught that creating has to be a form of purgatory, we cannot enjoy it, instead it must be torture and it has to be agony to produce whatever it is that we want to. There is a myth that any profound art must come from a place of darkness where a person has struggled against hatred of the creative process to bring their idea into reality. I know that creativity can sometimes be frustrating but why can’t it also be fun? Why can’t I be playful with my inspiration and ideas rather than have to permanently suffer because of them? 

4. The Earth will not stop spinning if your creation is not perfect

“while it’s definitely true that failure and criticism will bruise my precious ego, the fate of nations does not depend on my precious ego.”

Sometimes we can be paralysed by the fear that what we have created is not good enough and so we will do nothing with it. I have fallen into this trap many times, the notion that if I am not writing with the intention of producing a master piece or something profound and original then I shouldn’t write at all. However, if I take a step back I can see how ridiculous this is! Who the hell has the authority to decide what a masterpiece is anyway? I can create because I love to and to hell with anyone who says that the imperfections in my writing make it stupid and pointless, the imperfections they see in my writing are probably what makes it distinct and mine anyway. Plus, nothing dramatic is going to happen if I produce something which is nearer the crappy end of the scale rather than the genius end. Sure, it will be disappointing and I will be sad about it but then the world goes on and I will take what I need to from that experience and move on because no big seismic shift will occur in the world because I produced a story with blatant plot holes and grammatical errors.

5. Creativity should be cherished

“I am referring to the supernatural, the mystical, the inexplicable, the surreal, the divine, the transcendent, the otherworldly. Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment – not entirely human in its origins.”

As you can see from the quote, Gilbert talks and thinks about creativity in a reverential way. She speaks about it like it is a force which is outside of our understanding, unpredictable and totally, divinely, beautiful. I believe this too. I cannot explain creativity or inspiration, its ebbs and its flows. Sometimes it shines its full grace on me and I feel completely immersed in the magical feeling of imagination, purpose and art. Other times its a little trickier to place and I have to pursue inspiration with a renewed sense of determination. Either way, creativity is a hard idea to pinpoint precisely because of its unknown nature. People who live a creative life place their trust and faith in a force which can seem like it is playing them at times; teasing them with an idea just outside of their grasp. However, the way creativity can light-up our lives and bring us out of the usual routine of things surely means that it should be cherished, respected and revered.

 

DIARY #2 – SELF DOUBT

Today, I find myself staring at my blank computer screen, the brilliant white of a draft blog post staring blatantly back at me. And I feel intimidated. What I am looking at doesn’t seem to be a computer screen anymore, it’s taken on it’s own lease of life, masquerading as the many faces of people I dearly wish will never find this indescribably small corner of the internet that I inhabit. All of these faces leer at me, telling me that my writing isn’t good enough, that everything I say is cliched and that I should be embarrassed to spend my time pouring out these immature words. So, I feel afraid to write and my hands keep hovering hesitantly over my keyboard, frozen in a panic about whether or not they can trust my mind to give them good enough words to type out.

I’ll be honest, most of these faces take the appearance of people who have taught me over the years. People who have seemed to me to be impossibly clever, even scarily so as I remember their Oxbridge certificates taking pride of place on their walls, almost as if to prove my own inadequacy to me. Their faces contort into amused sneers in my mind’s eye as they look at me with the knowledge that what I write is absolute drivel that could never impress anyone. The way they look at me feels paralysing.

I don’t whether the force of their intimidation in my head is so strong because I got my first semester University results on Friday. The crude grading of my supposed intelligence and understanding has always felt frightening to me, as if the sum of my parts is presented on that results page in a disappointingly low percentage which classifies me as simply average. Whatever the mark, results are always a distinct bash to my confidence because it reminds me of how my future is in the hands of other people who are undoubtedly intellectually superior to me and probably marked my papers thinking how basic my work was. The most I can do is stick a figurative middle finger up at these pretend critiques which my mind has twisted out of the faint shadows of people I either used to know or barely know at all and continue to write in spite of the faces which drift across my consciousness.

BACK TO FEAR…

I’m back at Uni and it feels like a completely alien space to me. After a six week break for Christmas and the exam period, it started to feel like that first semester had just been a bad dream, something that I had now woken-up from. I let myself fantasise about a different life, one where I didn’t feel trapped in a course which I mistakenly chose on a whim when I was mentally unwell. I thought about the possibilities of feeling ‘normal’, not like the outcast I have made myself at Uni. My creativity began to flow through my veins again and the unexpected pleasure of poetry popped back into my life again after years of absence.

Yet, I then found myself in my dad’s freezing cold car making the journey back to that dreaded place. Back to my room in halls where I had holed myself up a couple of months previously and torn my body apart. The walls of my room hold the memories of depression naps in the middle of the day in which I fell into impossibly deep sleeps because I felt so exhausted with the effort of getting up, washing myself and eating. Now, I have to face these memories again, shrink myself back down to the size I was when I was drained and hopeless wishing for a way out of education finally and desperate for a way to feel adequate again – not the sum of my grades and tutors’ comments.

Onwards I go into this new semester, scared of what is lurking around the corner for me and hoping that one day the sunlight will filter into my room and rather than feel ashamed of it’s touch, I will feel hopeful instead.

WINDOWS…

It’s not so much windows as the view that they allow me which frightens me so much.

In my mind, windows are a scary liminal space between the protection that I am afforded inside my home and the volatile and unpredictable world that lays just beyond the sheets of glass. The glances I sneak through the window seem to tease me, knowing that I will inevitably be scared of what I will see. The carefree people drifting past my driveway, listening to music or chatting to friends seem so alien to me. Who are they? What kind of people are they? My mind channels these thoughts into a bottomless pool of fear as I ruminate on the fact that these people are walking just feet away from me and the only thing which separates us is a couple of sheets of dangerously fragile glass.

I know that I am irrational and overly paranoid; that is me. Whenever, I hear the closing of a car door or the slowing down of a vehicles tires, my heart goes into overdrive as I worry that will be someone with a delivery for the house. Such an idea feels like a wholesome threat to me. A delivery would mean opening the door, literally giving someone power over the threshold of my house, allowing them to see inside the protective fortress I have built for myself for the sole purpose of keeping others out. Deliveries mean having to sign my name when my sweaty hands will not function properly and handling a pen that goodness knows how many other people have touched before. Windows cheat me out of a way of avoiding such situations. Before I have time to gather myself and hide from view, the deliveryman has already sauntered half way down my drive and spotted me like a deer caught in the headlights through the window.

Windows remind me of the world that I will inevitably have to step back into when my next seminar or lecture comes or when hunger’s necessity to have food will drive me out of the house to the corner shop.

THIS MORNING

This morning I lay in bed feeling that my body was too weighed down to heave out of bed. The rational part of me was telling myself that I needed to get out of bed and get on with my day, I am already behind on Uni work. But the rest of me just wanted to stay cocooned inside my duvet for the rest of the day. I didn’t want the responsibility of sustaining myself, having to feed myself, having to hydrate myself. I wanted to pretend that the night could last all day – no new dramas, no challenges, just being suspended in that feeling of comfort all day.

I had an initial appointment for on-campus counselling yesterday. I have counselling and therapy before and each time I have to spill my guts to a new stranger so that I can get referred to another stranger to talk things through, I feel more drained and hopeless. I move from person to person and begin to think ‘what is the point?’. I fall into this black hole of thinking that I cannot be helped and that I can never verbalise my feelings properly anyway, so how can I ever get a counsellor or therapist to understand me?

I know that I am in a privileged position to even be close to get counselling, there are so many people across the world who are denied the treatment they need for a multitude of reasons. So, I’m sorry for moaning about it.

BEING A ‘LONER’ AT COLLEGE (SIXTH FORM)

Picture a girl with half her long blond hair shaved, a nose piercing and ‘hard rock’ clothing on, trying her best to look ‘edgy’, ‘cool’ and ‘mysterious’. Picture a girl who worships those adjectives like they are her keys to a new world, a world where she doesn’t need to change her introversion because she is admired and envied even without opening her mouth. But, this girl’s legs are wobbling making her stumble occasionally over her own clumsy feet, her face is red and shining due to a combination of acne, embarrassment and nervous sweating and she has tears in her eyes coupled with a lump in her throat as she recognises the familiar sense of panic and foreboding she always gets when she knows she will have to meet new people. This girl was me two years ago on my first day at college.

The people at my college intimidated me. They were vastly more experienced, they were headstrong and confident and they looked years older than me (despite my best efforts to look like a punk I still had the face and stature of a little girl way out of her depth). When asked why I had changed schools I could hardly say that I had become so deeply depressed and overwhelmed with anxiety that a changed had seemed as good as any other option. People bonded over common interests while I curled further in on myself in the hopes that this would protect me from the cruel words which I assumed would inevitably come; they always did.

I sat at the front of classes, knowing that this was the place where people would be least likely to want to sit themselves beside me. Everyday, I brought my marmite sandwich into college in a pristine plastic tupperware as I knew that I would not be comfortable enough to walk into any of the shops or restaurants around my college. At lunch, I would pretend that there was something extremely important or interesting that I had to do on my phone so that I wouldn’t look so lost and lonely. Once I could not feasibly pretend to do this anymore I left the common room after feeling increasingly tense that someone would soon identify me as an easy target; alone, shy and cowering behind too-large glasses and they would start picking on me; they always did.

So I would hide in the safest place I could think of…Glasses and wavesthe toilets. Locked safely inside a claustrophobic cubicle I would berate myself for being such a failure and weirdo before the intrusion of a giggling group of girls into the room would once again prick my anxiety. I would have to flee the toilets as their abrasively enthusiastic laughing and chatting would chip away at my already extremely low self-esteem (it was like their happiness re-emphasised my unhappiness).

In class, I would do my best to disappear, hiding my face behind obscenely large textbooks and resolutely avoiding eye contact with teachers as they posed questions to the class. I always handed my work in on time, not simply to abide by the rules but largely to avoid any conflict with teachers which would bring about communication which, in turn, could only lead to embarrassment and panic on my side. As soon as the teacher ended the class I would rush to be the first person out of the door, pretending that I had somewhere pressingly urgent to go (as if anyone in my class actually cared where the mute girl went after lessons).

I organised my entire daily activity around the other people at my college. I obsessively thought over where was best to go in my free periods to avoid the burning glare of other people’s curious stares as I spent my entire free looking down hopelessly at the same page in my book, never really intending to read anything. I planned my outfits conscious of what would be least likely to attract their intimidating attention. I even planned to the exact minute what the best time to excuse myself during a lesson would be according to when I thought the teacher would finally try to ask me a question after I hadn’t met their eye the whole lesson.

The most ridiculous thing is; I bet those other students didn’t waste more than a minute of their time thinking about me especially after class-time. Whereas, I agonised endlessly about their opinions and judgements night and day.

I had always been from the beginning what I had worked so hard to achieve that whole course; invisible.

NO MOTIVATION

I have gotten to a point where everything seems laid out in front of me; I have gotten into University, my course is about to start and my campus is a hive of activity. So, why am I not feeling more energised than ever? I thrive off of reading and the only validation I ever really get is my good grades, so why am I not raring to prove myself and start off down this track which has been set out for me years and years prior to this moment?

The next chapter of my life is at my finger-tips and I am sitting in a closed-off room trying to do anything but reach out for it.

This, in turn, sets off a spiral of uncontrolled negative thoughts which suck me down into depths of suffocating guilt and feelings of unworthiness. Also, I begin to wonder, if I am not driven by academia, then who am I? What else can I lay claim to? I’m not successful in any other field of my life, I just stay in this small pen which has been cordoned off for me for many years.

Is it because I am scared of failure that I am not excited to start my course? It may be that I am so terrified of falling off this degree and being incapable that I am unwilling to start it because that would mean discovering my own aptitude. Then, I am frightened of what I would possibly do in the event of me actually getting knocked-off this course. I will not be able to find any other path with which to navigate; I will be lost.

[Interlude:Progression through Higher Education is the most advertised and conventional road through life in this country. Whilst this is wonderful because it proves we have a certain level of freedom to access education, is it not also alienating?]

Or am I anxious that starting my University course will be like re-living my college years. College made me feel so lonely, like I was the only one lost in a crowd of people who all knew a secret that I didn’t. They had goals and friends and an individual purpose for each of them (it’s like an intellectual Santa Claus visited them all every year but constantly missed me out). Whereas, I spent my lunchtimes eating in a toilet cubicle if I felt too anxious to go and sit in the common-room. College made me look around as if part of me was missing and I do not want University to force me into recommencing that doomed and fruitless search.

“Always be a work in progress” – Emily Lillian (darling, some of us don’t have any choice)