The curse and blessing that is YOLO

Decisions. For some reason people around the world struggle with them. I do too. They’re like blank pages we feel like we need to conquer. But how to get those first words onto the page? How to know they are the right words? Decisions very much feel like that. You toss and you turn and you hope that when you do decide, it will be the right decision.

“Yes, he is the guy you will be able to spend your life with, happily ever after.”
“No, that is not the right place for you to move to, far removed from what brings you joy.”
“Perhaps, maybe this job opportunity is the right one, but how to know for sure…?”

If any of this sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve all been there before.

The problem is that making decisions is hard. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how wise you might be, they’re always hard. Because the uncertainty of making the wrong move is a fearful task. More so even in this world than a world of years ago. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed by the opportunities screaming at my generation to get noticed, to be our roads less travelled by our ancestors. Growing up in today’s day and age is a privilege, if nothing else. But let’s face it, in a way, things were “easier” way back when.

I use that term loosely, “easy”, as I don’t want you to mistake it for “better”. What I am aiming for is that, once upon a time, you were born and depending on which family you came from, which gender you were etc., life was almost “pre-decided” for you. It may not have suited you perhaps, but in a way, you knew what to do. You knew how far you could go and what limitations life held. While I’d never want to go back to a world like that, I do confess it sounds appealing in a “Gosh-how-amazing-would-it-be-to-not-have-to-make-such-important-life-altering-decisions-all-the-time.” I mean, hell, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this?

In my opinion, a lot of people make choices nowadays out of fear for going into the golden years with too many regrets. It’s what my generation, the #YOLO-generation is all about: You Only Live Once. And that belief, that fear that you only live once, well it means that you have to carpe the hell out of that diem, doesn’t it? It means you can’t let any kind of chance of greatness go to waste, or you’ll be the fool who let it all slip through his/her fingers. There’s pressure behind making decisions now, not just because life is no longer “pre-decided” and you actually control your own fate (for which I’m sure you’ll all say with me: Halleluja!) but if you make the wrong one, you’re not living up to your YOLO-potential. Shame on you!

Let’s be honest: I have felt that pressure massively as well. Who doesn’t? But the absence of said pressure can have negative consequences too, I feel. Say you find yourself in a life you didn’t specifically ask for, you never really wanted, never truly dreamed of in the way that you’re experiencing it, yet… You can see it being stable, presenting you with a future where you know what to expect. Finally, the pressure is off! And you can rest a little easier. You can breathe more carefree, even as the days, weeks and months pass by and you have to admit to yourself, that while you’re not unhappy, you’re not exactly happy either. The relief of knowing what’s coming next keeps you tied to your present state.

As this is my first day where I am truly no longer employed, the pressure is back on in a major way. While it’s an added weight to carry, in a way I welcome it back with open arms. Finally I have the power to make decisions again! Who’d-a-thunk I’d be glad to feel that stress?! Ha, I genuinely am though. To be honest, I always had the power to make my own decisions – of course I did. But my carefree state made me unwilling to change. Now though, I’m ready for something different. So with that in mind, I’ve made two decisions:

  1. I am starting an online copywriting course at the College of Media & Publishing. I’ve always loved writing and I’ve got a solid background in marketing, it’ll be awesome to truly combine the two and see how I do. I have the time nowadays anyways, so why not? Sitting at home day after day just doesn’t interest me – now that I have the opportunity, I want to make the most of it and learn about something that interests me greatly!
  2. This Saturday I’m attending a Creative Writing course at the Faber Academy in London. Not sure what to expect from it, I’ve only been told to “bring my favourite novel”. But I’m definitely so looking forward to it! This course to me is not about learning per se, like the CMP online course is. It’s not about helping me look for the next opportunity in my life… This one just tugs at my heartstrings. This one… Is just for me. :-) And I can’t wait!

I’ll keep you updated on how it all pans out. In the meantime, I’d just like to stimulate each and every one of you to never lose that pressure. Never lose that feeling where life has no more different stories to offer you, because everything is simply going full steam ahead towards the predictable end. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: life is unpredictable. And that can be such an amazing thing to experience! I’d hate for you to lose that excitement, to lose that joyous buoyant feeling of being deliciously alive. Stop being content if you’re not, not truly anyways. Change it. You have the power to make that decision. I encourage you to do so.

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From: Invictus, by William Ernest Henley (1888)

Life is unpredictable. Expect that.

The other day I was chatting with one my BFFs – yes, I know, what a cheesy way to describe someone, but in my defence: I did grow up in the age of “BFF” and “NWLY” and “ILY”, also known as the MSN-generation. And there’s simply no better way to describe this particular foxy lady. Anyways, I digress: we were talking boys, as us girls tend to do. And in the midst of it, I was advising her to not have too many expectations of how life was supposed to be. Especially not in the love department.

Why? Well, a lot of us – and with “us” I mean “girls” – grow up thinking that we need to find the right man. And once we do, we need to make that relationship a top priority in our lives together, so that when a sufficient amount of time has passed, it will have become appropriate for us to move in together with said man. After which another period needs to pass, so that it will become acceptable for the man to propose to us and we can finally start our “happily ever after”.

Simultaneously though, we are also expected to work on our self-actualisation and be our own woman. To go out and enjoy a movie, you don’t need a man. Same goes for dinner and every other activity you’d often need a partner to “enjoy”. We are told we don’t need a man to feel worthy of love, to feel worthy – period. Which, in my opinion, is so true! But I find it to be a conflicting message, because if we can enjoy our lives on our own, then why can we not have a happily ever after without that other person?

One of my dear friends is a stunning woman. She was married. It didn’t work out. All of her friends have gotten married, started on kids and look at her with that look of pity – because “her plans” didn’t pan out. And it’s heart-breaking. Because her life is freakin’ fabulous. She does what makes her happy. And sure, she’d love to meet a great man and maybe have kids with him. But it’s not going to define her. Instead, she just landed a job abroad and she’s going to be kick-ass amazing at it. I’ve not been this proud of someone in a long time, because – while she doesn’t know it – it gives me hope for my own future. That I can be me and chase after my own dreams, the way she has done no matter what happened.

She’s taught me this: I can be my own woman. And that will already be enough. The rest of it… Will sort itself out, I hope. But I’m not counting on it. I don’t need to follow that “traditional roadmap” in order to achieve happiness. Because even when you do, my friend’s story proves that it doesn’t necessarily mean happily ever after. Expecting that everything will be miraculously wonderful once you’ve got a ring on it, well it just ain’t realistic.

Which brings me to my point, something I’m taking a long time to get to – I know. But as I was talking to my friend who was having all these expectations about how her relationship was “supposed to go”, as us young women have always been unconsciously taught to have, I told her to stop having them altogether. Because life is totally unpredictable. And while I understand that human beings don’t do well with insecurity, it’s madness to think that there’s only one way your life can go, one plan that will deliver happiness. Because that’s not real life.

So I told my friend: Life is unpredictable. Expect that.

A year ago I didn’t expect to be out of a job right now. I didn’t expect I would have moved out from my place, a flat I’d only just moved into at the time. I didn’t expect to have lost a lot of my self-worth in the months past. I didn’t expect to have to do all of this rebuilding on my own self right now. I didn’t expect a lot of things. But I did expect that nothing would happen according to planBecause it wouldn’t happen that way. Because it hasn’t been happening that way for years.

From the moment I applied to business school – something that would never have occurred to me in a million years in the years preceding that decision – I threw everything out the window. My plans I’d had. My future I’d always seen so clearly. I threw it all away. Because what’s the point? Life doesn’t work out that way. And while it was hard at first, somehow I ended up in another country. And then I started building a life here, somewhere I’d never envisioned living – besides in my wildest dreams. Clearly not everything has been smooth sailing, but is that what I did it for? To lead a charmed life? Or is it more interesting to lead a life, experiencing both the good and the bad – whatever it likes to throw at you and see how you do?

I still haven’t got a plan. I have no idea what I am going to do. But I’m sure I’ll find out. As time moves forward, I am totally confident I will at least find out. It’d be awesome to have a bit of certainty, but since it’s been uncertainty that has brought me here… Even through the bad, I’m actually OK living my life this way. As the unpredictable mess that it is. I’ve come to expect it. More even: I’ve come to love it.

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How good is your swipe?

As any singleton living in London, I am all too familiar with the dating world. Or, better yet, the dating hell that is Tinder, Happn, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel – man, the list of dating apps is endless. Sadly, it’s not made it much easier than in the times before mobile phones were even a thing, which you would think is the case. Let me temper your expectations straight away: it’s really really not.

It’s almost a joke to think that in the 21st century – with all its progress and advancements – dating is still as difficult as always. But alas, while we may use dating apps now – which are indeed wonderfully convenient – I cannot begin to tell you how unbelievably impersonal it is! More even: because it’s so impersonal, more often than not the actual date doesn’t even happen. You’re lucky if you even get a decent conversation – let alone a nice evening out on the town. *insert audible groan here*

Ah well, luckily for you, I am in a sharing mood and today I’d like to take you through some enjoyable Tinder conversations I’ve had, because while it’s perceptibly painful, it can also be totally hilarious. Now, if you’re a guy, this may actually help you! Because genuinely, I am not just commemorating the worst offenders here. No, in fact, I am just creating like a hall of fame of “Things shitloads of guys do on Tinder that we – us with the boobs – really wish they didn’t”. And with that introduction, let’s start with this poor lad here, who came up with the cheesiest pick-up line in history:

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I mean… What is up with that? You think that’s going to make me intrigued at your noticeable lack of wit? To be honest, I did laugh, but at the guy, not with, which is an important distinction. Safe to say: this dude is still waiting for me to reply. And he’ll be waiting for a loooong time.

Another hilarious thing that will happen whilst you’re swiping away: these Christian Grey-induced dudes, thinking they’re “tha shiznit” and believing this is totally something that will sweep us ladies off our feet. Like… Really? Seriously, guys complain all the time that the Christian Grey bonanza has set unrealistic relationship goals for women and we now all want mentally scarred billionaires tying us up to get ready for a good spank. Let me tell you now, once and for all: this is not the case!!!

Suffice it to say that, whenever I encounter these idiots, a swipe left occurs immediately. Well, after I’ve taken a print screen, obviously. Because oh yeah, this is beautiful material to share with the girls as we commiserate with each other on the sad desert that represents our love lives.

But I confess, I do feel for some of these guys though. Sometimes it happens that we swipe right and then we match and it’s like… “Ah. Oy, uhh… Well, to be honest I’m not into this guy, now that I’ve thought about it.” But alas, the guy immediately starts making contact! To be fair: it doesn’t happen often that they’ll keep trying after that first unanswered text, but you do have those who are persistent, like this guy who matched my friend the other day:
IMG_3925I mean, if it wasn’t so funny, I would probably think it was sad. As for my friend: she’s not replying in a bid to find out how many more days he can keep this up for. Because, let’s face it, this is entertaining stuff to share!

Sometimes though, miracles do happen and you start a conversation, which is – low and behold – actually enjoyable. Finally, it’s a guy who’s not immediately asking for naked pictures, it’s not a guy in a “happy, open relationship who’s just looking for a bang” and he’s also not going straight for the meet-up, but wanting to get to know you before he’s interested in going for a coffee… I know, after all the depressing madness, you’d started to think these nice guys didn’t exist? Ha!

It doesn’t happen often, but when you do find someone willing to get to know you, there’s only a few things that can derail a great conversation. Sadly though, the following two lads – especially the latter – really couldn’t keep up with me. Maybe I’m asking for a bit much, but I really enjoy intelligent conversation. And while I’m totes happy talking about TV shows, favourite foods and other simple topics, it’s kind of an epic fail if you can’t even keep up with those easy conversation starters.

This first guy here is a classic example: he asked me about my favourite show – which I am super happy to talk about! Obviously at the moment I am all about UnReal, a show I’ve discussed at length on my blog here before. It’s a brilliant sTinder 4how and I cannot stop talking about it, it’s just so good. Unfortunately, this lovely Scot had no idea what “meta” was and figured it was something “highbrow”. I mean… Sure, I’m a literature student and perhaps it is highbrow – you tell me? – but in any case… Given that this is my favourite show right now, it’d be good if you’d at least “pretended” that you understood what I was saying? Oy oy oy! I totally get that not everyone has the same interests and therefore not the same knowledge, but Google is your friend, darlings! So when you are chatting someone up, this is just NOT how you impress someone. I’ll always take “Intelligence for 500, Bob!” Meet me halfway, will ya?

Alas, this other dude also TOTALLY failed at proving he was intelligent. We were talking about speaking different languages and considering my Belgian background, he wondered whether I could speak AND Flemish AND Dutch??? Clearly, he must also believe that Belgium is the capital of Brussels, as that’s the level of his question right there. Major face palming over at my end of the phone, as I audibly groaned while I – once again – wondered whether true love is really a major scam and all my happy couply friends are totally doing me over with this massive joke.

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It’s a depressing world out there, the dating world. I don’t know anyone who enjoys it all that much, as it’s ridiculously embarrassing and increasingly hopeless. And yet… Us singletons persevere in the hopes of one day finding that one person to be with and share our lives with. A feat that many of my friends have succeeded in, yet I am somehow not able to accomplish. But oh well, since fortune favours the brave and all that, I do keep trying. And let’s be honest: there’s a lot to smile about too. Because yes, dear gents, if you embarrass yourselves online, we will share with our girlfriends. And we will laugh.