‘Get a life’ is a strange phrase. It’s potentially mostly used by people who are looking to respond to insults and so it carries no real weight. Someone tells you that you can’t go out looking like that/with that person/that you’re too old for it? They should get a life. The man on the street earlier who pointedly told me women look better without makeup? He should get a life. And so on.
But the above encounter got me thinking. Not about my makeup, mind – I was pretty happy rocking my black lipstick – but about my ‘life’.
A few weeks ago, I went on a trip to Manchester to go to my ex-flatmate’s new housewarming party. And as I recounted the weekend to a friend the next day, I used the phrase: ‘it’s the first time I’ve felt alive in ages’, and I immediately regretted it because it sounded fucking pathetic, even to my own ears. But I haven’t forgotten it, it’s been going round and round in my head for days now. And I’ve decided I need to fix it, I need to feel as if I’m actively involved in my own life – only I can’t figure out how.
All things considered, I’m not in the greatest of positions in life at this precise moment. I live with my parents who seriously dislike my choice of career, I pay the same amount of rent as if I were living in a house-share and so am finding it impossible to save, and my job is currently under threat due to the company undergoing a major re-haul. Literally everything about my current situation is temporary and it means that I feel the same way.
So I’ve decided to set out a few rules. Let’s call it a Mid Year’s Resolution. Actually, let’s not because I broke my last New Year’s Resolution within a week. Besides, these rules are more like goals. They are intangible and will most likely not be noticed, much less commented upon, by a single one of my colleagues, family members or friends. But in essence, that’s pretty much the point. These things aren’t meant to cure my fear that I don’t exist as a separate entity to everybody else, they’re just meant to make things easier in the short term. A permanent fix is a new degree, a new house, a new job and a new life. That might just take longer than the five months I have left of 2016 that I’ve given myself to make this change. Just maybe. Anyway, without further ado, in no particular order – and yes, that sentence makes me feel like I’m impersonating Dermot O’Leary on the X Factor – the rules on How to Get A Life are:
1)Stop letting other people tell you what to do.
How are you ever going to become comfortable in your own skin if you don’t make your own decisions? Seems simple, is extremely hard in practise. I have a problem with this. Last month my mother told me I ask other people’s opinions too much when I am trying to make an important decision. My reaction to this? To ask my friends their opinion on whether they agreed with what she had said. The irony didn’t hit until after I’d sent the message, but the realisation was proof enough that she was right.
2) Plan something crazy and adventurous.
The more usual version of this is to ‘do something every day that scares you’. I’m not so good with that, because all rash decisions I’ve ever made have been pretty bad in terms of judgement, which is where the word ‘plan’ comes into play. What I’m advocating here is a planned removal from the confines of your everyday life. This is important because everyone needs to realise that their limits are much further than they personally can comprehend them to be. It could be that sky dive you’ve always thought about, it could be travelling to Asia like you always said you would when you were younger. Myself? In October, I’m flying out to America for a month to see a boy I first met when I was 18 to see if, six years later, we’re still compatible in any way. Crazy, I know. Pretty damn scary, too. (And not just because I have no idea how to look remotely attractive after an 11-hour flight). But it’s giving the next few weeks of my life a frisson of excitement that I haven’t felt for a while.
3) Embrace complete independence.
Now this one, I’ve got down pat. Probably too much so. I was brought up never to expect anything from anybody; I didn’t receive pocket money as a child and I was never given lifts in the car past the age of 14. Now, as a full grown adult, I carry my own groceries and I do not let kind-hearted men stow my baggage in the overhead compartment for me. Yes, I know, I take it too far. But there’s something to be said for trusting yourself more than any other person to get things done.
4) Don’t pay attention to social media.
This is the strangest one on the list, granted. And perhaps the one most easy to ignore. But FOMO is real, ladies and gentlemen. And it’s toxic. There will always be somebody with a hotter body, a nicer boyfriend, a more exotic holiday. Don’t compete. It won’t make you feel any better. Recently I’ve decided not to take pictures when I go on day trips to attractions such as zoos or museums. I realised that I’m only taking the pictures to upload on my Instagram page, and I’d actually much rather enjoy the moments as they unfold. I want my memories to be in my head because I saw them with my eyes, and not from behind a screen.
5) And finally, be grateful of what you have, but never stop wanting more.
The second you feel like you’ve ‘settled’, you’ve failed. I very nearly tied myself to a career I didn’t want, because it would have made my family happy. And then one day, I was talking about it to a family member and I found myself saying words to the tune of how I never thought life would be where I’d work a job for 40 years, retire and die. That I’d never seen life as formulaic before that moment and it had genuinely made me question the point of life. That perhaps it wouldn’t be a great tragedy if I lay down and died right then. That person looked me in the eyes and told me I should cancel the job offer then and there. I did, and now life feels endless once more. We should never be able to see the ends of our journeys – there is always more around the corner.
I feel like I should put a conclusion here, but I wouldn’t know what to say. I guess, to anybody that feels the same as me, that their life is at a stand-still, I would say to them that perhaps it’s true that YOLO is the wisest phrase I have ever heard. And, on the flip-side to that, as a friend at university once screamed at me as she ran across a road in front of a car, YODO is equally as true. One day, you won’t have any time left to make a change. To hell with everybody else. You do you, and be proud of yourself for every second that you don’t give up. Find wonder in small things. Leave no room for regrets, whether it’s second helpings of dessert or flying halfway across the world to date a boy you never forgot about, even after six whole years. Make your own choices and have your own rules and never ever apologise for them. It really is the the only way.
Now, please, get out of my face and go get a life.