Universal Popularity

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“If you are holding out for universal popularity, I am afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.” – Albus Dumbledore. 

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time, one I use often in conversation and in life. It is also one of the lesser known pieces of J.K. Rowling’s brilliant wisdom in the Harry Potter books, possibly because it never made it into the movies. But take it to heart. If you are holding out for universal popularity, you will be in this cabin for a very long time. In other words, don’t hesitate. Don’t hide. Don’t lock yourself away because you think the world won’t approve of you. Open the door, step outside and get on with life.

No one is ever liked by everyone, just as no one is ever hated by everyone. So what do you have to lose? Life isn’t about living so that every single person, whether they understand or care about you or not, will be okay with you existing. It isn’t about bending yourself to the world’s rules. Be who you are, because “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.” I know I’ve made a lot of blog posts about this, but it has to be said. 

No matter what it is you want to do or be, someone is going to disapprove. There will be someone who is disgusted, someone who thinks you’re crazy, someone who shuns you. But the love and acceptance that matters most is your own. If you love yourself than you can find a way to be happy. Why bother straining to be someone you aren’t just so others will like you, if it means you won’t even like yourself? We weren’t put on this planet to shine and glow in a spotlight as others admire us. If anything, we were ‘put here’ to be dirty and broken and imperfect. We were made to raise hell and change the world. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything has made a few enemies along the way. It’s the nature of the game. 

No matter what you do, you will still be disliked by someone. You will still not be popular universally. You will still fail. You will still make mistakes. You will still die. We only have one life – as far as anyone knows – and we need to spend it doing things that we love and that can help us to love us. 

Go chase your dreams. Go hunt down your ambitions. Accept your flaws, I dare you. Most importantly, step outside. Leave the cabin behind. Let the sunlight fall across your face. Reveal yourself to the world. 

The Old And The New

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I’m writing this from the empty office of my work. Sitting here, waiting for the ferry that will take me back to my old school for the weekend, it is easy to start thinking about how much has changed for me recently. A year ago I would never have dreamed of living on my own. Eight months ago I wasn’t planning to graduate early. Seven months ago I had writer’s block and had no ideas for a novel. Three months ago I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do after school, only that I wanted to be a writer. And now… I am planning on renting my own tiny cabin, on a completely different island from my parents. I am working  on the second draft of my novel and I actually think that this could be the one that I finish and get published. I’m graduated. And, to top it all off, opportunity knocked on my door in June and beckoned me to a new job, being the one and only assistant to the one and only publisher/editor/ad salesperson/writer/person-who-does-everything-else of the one and only Island Tides newspaper. My articles have been published and 18,000 copies have been distributed. I’ve learned enough to make my head spin just thinking about it. I feel incredibly fortunate. 

I also feel like I’m running. I can’t stop to think about the speed at which I am hurtling or else my feet won’t be able to catch up with my body and I will cartwheel into space. I have to take things one step at a time so I don’t get completely flustered, and yet I must keep my eyes on the horizon. Most importantly, I have to keep my balance. I am careening wildly into new territory. Opportunity does not wait for anyone, and so I must hurry to catch up with it. If I stumble, should I fall, I will be left dazed and bruised on the forest floor in a place I haven’t been before, with no idea of where opportunity has fled to. Just in case I trail behind, I must weave a map out of memories so I can find my way home should I need to.

This is perhaps the most challenging part. How do I look back when I need to keep searching forward? What if looking back just makes me doubt the path on which I walk? Might it cause me to wish to go back to yesterday even though I know that yesterday cannot be reached? And yet I must look back, because I cannot let myself forget the path home. I need to drop a trail of pearly thoughts on the road down which I run so that I might trace them to their centre should I need to. It’s a lot to keep in mind.

I know this weekend of going back to my old school is going to be wonderful, but I also know that it will tough. I’ll be back home, with my old friends. It will be as if nothing has changed, and yet everything has. I only hope that the sweetness overrides the bitterness of fresh goodbyes. I need to go back to my old island home this weekend – there is no hiding from goodbyes. I can feel the place calling to me, like a mother who wants one last hug before she lets her child run off on their own crazy adventures. And I will take the hug. I will let it hold me close. I will give it a last bottle of my tears, a fresh dose of my smiles and a monologue of whispered thanks. I will murmur to it as the soft twilight falls through the alder forest, promising to stay safe, to be strong, and to return. 

Because, though everything has changed, some things will always be the same. 

Plans for the Future

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Life is exciting. I have so many interesting things coming my way. So many adventures to embark on and epic paths to follow. To have a thousand dreams is to have a thousand fires burning in your heart.

This September is already shaping up to be another crazy learning experience. I’m going to be moving out on my own. Most of the summer I’ve been pretty much by myself, but not completely. And now… in a couple of days I’m going to go check out the cutest little cabin ever to see if I can rent it in the fall. It is seriously adorable. One room and heated with a woodstove… It has a claw foot bathtub instead of a shower and a sundeck and a tangled garden around it. I’m super excited to go see it in the flesh tomorrow. I think I can really make it feel like home.

And I’ve still got my wonderful job to look forward to, now a permanent part of life it seems. I have an amazing boss and I’m learning lots. And of course, there’s also the rising sum of my savings account. I figure by spring I’ll have enough to go travel Europe, which is something I’ve been dreaming of for what seems like forever, more and more intently.

With all of this, and also the excitement of my novel ahead of me, life is giving me enough to smile at. My novel is really shaping up, which I find surprising since I’ve recently decided to rewrite it. But it is still coming together, setbacks and all, piece by piece, word by word, glowing idea after glowing idea. I feel like I might have a chance at everything I’ve dreamed of. I might have a chance to be the author I want to be and change the world with my words. 

Of course, there are problems with my plans, big enough to occasionally wipe the hope from my heart. For one, the ever-present force of loneliness which has preceded over the majority of my life has come back from its temporary vacation leave. I am alone on a small island. I know very few people. My cabin – I’m already calling it that – will have no internet. I have no phone. And, most importantly, my friends are all busy anyways. What to do when you live on a rock in the middle of the ocean with no connections to anyone your age?

But I’ll get through the problems. Life isn’t prefect. It never will be. Things are coming together and that is what is important. Slowly but surely. Little by little. And I have only gratitude for that. 

Analogies for Broken Things

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You know how in cartoons the characters can usually run right off cliffs and then not fall until they look down? Well, sometimes I feel that that is the state of being in which society is currently living. It seems to me that humanity has been building a ladder since the beginning of our time, rung by rung, higher and higher. And we have been so busy focusing on building taller that we haven’t looked down and realized that each time we place a rung above our heads, one disappears beneath us. So now here we are, far, far up, resting precariously on a floating piece of ladder until such time as we all collectively look down, whisper “shit” and plummet. One can only hope we will be able to recover from the resulting injuries as well as cartoon characters can.

The world is a very broken place. The more I look the more I see it. Our cause and effect has been warped out of shape. For instance, one could argue that one of the biggest physical challenges humans face right now is overpopulation. It is the root of many things – poverty, famine, war, the rapid spread of disease and climate change, to name a few. One could also argue that one of the biggest mental and emotional challenges that humans face is loneliness. Now. Step back and look at those two things. Something doesn’t seem to add up. If there are more of us then ever, why are there also more of us feeling alone? If there are over seven billion people on this planet, why is there no longer any community?

And here society is, on its little piece of floating ladder, and all of our systems, emotional and physical, are resting on nothing. We have built our castles on pillars of sand and the tide is beginning to come in. Nothing makes sense anymore. There are more people, and more of them are alone. The more energy saving devices we seem to create, the harder everyone works. The more we have, the more unsatisfied we feel. Someday soon we are going to realize that maybe its the lack of oxygen that comes with being several kilometers farther up than we should be that is twisting our reality out of shape. Just maybe it would be better to look down and get this over with than to spend our lives climbing until we leave earth behind and find that we can no longer breath. 

It’s like we’re playing a giant game of jenga. But one of those ultimate versions, where every piece you take out you have to stack on top of the game again. We ran out of building materials a long time ago so we are relying on ripping out the foundation of our house and using it to create new levels. We only want to be taller. But I’ll tell you what. We need to stop sacrificing our roots for our branches before our foundation becomes so unstable that the entire jenga game comes crashing down in an avalanche of broken pieces.

That’s it. That’s all of the mixed metaphors I’ve got. Make what you will of them.  

Random Thought Gallery #3 (Or is it 4?)

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I have too many random thoughts swirling around in my head it seems. Though I suppose that might be thought of as a good thing.

* You can tell a lot about someone by how they walk through an automatic door. I’m seventeen and I still discretely wave a hand in front of me and command the door to open under my breath, just to watch it obey me like I’m magic.

* So today someone introduced me as a journalist and I was like (in my head obviously) “Wait. Wait, wait, wait. What? I’m a journalist? Holy shit, I am!”

* If I ever get a tattoo it’s going to be a Harry Potter quote translated into elvish characters. Just to screw with all the fandoms that I love.

* I don’t understand how people can be so defensive and sensitive all the time. It just seems like a lot of unnecessary work and stress. Having to freak out every time anyone said something even remotely irritating would drive me up the wall.

* I used to be like (insert whiny voice here) “But what if people judge me, oh they’re probably judging me!” And now I’m just like “But what if people-” *SLAP* “Shut up whiny voice, it’s their problem if they’re going to judge me. I can be whoever the frick I want and if people are going to judge me for it then it’s their loss not mine.” And then I proceed to sit crosslegged on the pavement of a ferry terminal, wearing a cloak and singing a Lord of the Ring’s song to myself.

* I am getting more and more excited about my travel plans. I want to see the world. I want to let it teach me. I want to get lost in Paris and I want to sleep in an abandoned movie theater in Venice and I want to learn new languages and make new friends and go on new journeys.

* And even though I want to do all this, a part of me is getting all nostalgic for back to school time and wishing I could just go to highschool and do homework and have extra long weekends.

Well, that is it for now. I hope you enjoyed the strange roamings of my head!

Labels

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No human, or at least, very few humans, maybe one in a hundred thousand, fits any label before it is given to them. Human spirits are too unique, to diverse and incredibly strange, to ever fit in a box, no matter what the box is. But even the act of being labelled changes a person. They begin to act differently, either to fit the label, because it makes them feel more accepted, or to rebel against it. Usually, it’s to fit the label, whether or not the change is subconscious. And of course, sometimes people get labelled the rebel so they act more and more like it.

I keep running into situations were people shut out all of their other sides just so they can fit a new label they have been given. They push away everything that doesn’t fit their new position. I did it to, for quite a long time. I still do it. I was labelled a wild child when I was little, so I pushed away my other sides. But the truth is, I love wearing dresses and feeling pretty just as much as I like hiking up a mountain under the stars in a shirt I’ve been wearing for three days. I was labelled a nerd, so I tried to forget all that was non-nerdy about me. But when I walked into a room today where a superhero movie was playing, my first thought was “ooohhh, that guy is hot!” Some wild child. Some nerd.

So I urge you please, do not limit yourself by what others – or even you yourself – decide you should be like. Be who you are, pure and unlabelled. Don’t suppress half of your identity because it doesn’t suit the restrictions you’ve drawn up for yourself.

Of course, I know from experience that refusing labels can be damn hard. It seems to me that the world is divided into cliques, and if you don’t squeeze yourself into a box then the only clique you will ever find to be part of is the misfit clique. And yet… the misfits are the best people. They are the ones whose souls are so vast and starry that any box they are put into breaks into splinters and lets them fly free. They are the people who are themselves, untainted by attempts to fit another person’s perceptions of them. To be a misfit is to live more wholesomely. The only trouble is finding the misfits – there are fewer of them.

If you find yourself losing your identity because it doesn’t fit the side of you that you think society will like better, stop right there and consider the sacrifice you are making. You don’t have to choose between two sides of yourself because you think that’s the only way to find your identity. I’m beginning to feel that our identities are with us when we are born, vast quantities of raw star dust, and as we stumble through life trying to “find ourselves” we end up distorting the image we began as into symmetricality. When we are born we are abstract art. This quest for self identity is a search to find a perfect photograph from among the splashes of colour and odd swirls of light that we begin as. But maybe we were never meant to be labelled and shaped. Maybe we were meant to remain abstract.

Growing up in Hogwarts

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So I’ve been thinking… do the teachers at Hogwarts have to have summer homes, ones they go to for the holidays, or do they just live at Hogwarts all year round? I imagine most would live permanently in the castle, because the school needs looking after anyways. So what happens if a teacher has a partner and kids? Kids too young to go to school at Hogwarts? Do they never get to see them? Or… and this is the good part…do the kids and the partner live at Hogwarts? I can see the teacher’s partner just wandering into Hogsmead and apperating to wherever they work each morning. And the kids would grow up with Hogwarts as their only home. By the time they were eleven and ready to attend the school, they’d know every secret passageway by heart. The teachers and headmaster – or mistress – would be like uncles and aunts to them. They’d have mentors among the ghosts and they’d have spent ages getting to know the portraits.

Imagine growing up in Hogwarts. Spending summers roaming the Forbidden Forest with your parents there to protect you, exploring the castle and hanging out in Hogsmead…Imagine how wonderful a play place the Room of Requirement would be. You could have as big of a jungle gym as you wanted. You could have a ballpit the size of a football field, or you could have an amusement park, or a waterslide, or a zipline.

And then each September when school started and both your parents were working, you’d spend your days being looked after by the house elves. You’d sit in the kitchens eating delicious food and playing games with the other teachers’ kids and with the elves. Every once in a while you’d go have tea with Hagrid, or go spend time roaming the castle with one of the ghosts. You would have friends among the older students, little-kid crushes, and you would hang out with them on weekends when they weren’t busy, because what student would refuse to babysit their teacher’s kid? And you’d always know all the passwords in and around the castle, so you’d have your baths in the prefect’s bathroom with a thousand different kinds of bubbles, and every time you felt like it you could swing by one of the common rooms and visit with people.

On your eleventh birthday the house elves would throw you a big party, and as you sat eating cake by the fire, the kitchen door would open and in would come Dumbledore, wading through the elves with a smile on his face. He’d sit right down beside you and offer you a thick envelope stamped with the Hogwarts crest. You’d rip it open and find your letter, no owl necessary.

It would be the most exciting thing, finally becoming a real part of the school. You’d be nervous too of course, because you would already know so many of the students and you’d already know what House you really, really wanted to be in. You’d go to Diagon Alley to get your school stuff same as everyone else, but on September 1st there would be no need to take any trains. You’d get Hagrid to take you with him down to the platform at Hogsmead and you’d stand and wait for the train with the kids who live in Hogsmead. Then you’d take the boats across the lake with everyone, trying to imagine what it would be like to see your home for the first time like all the other kids.

Half of your classmates would think you were brilliant, with your knowledge of the school, but half of them would be sure to call you a teacher’s pet. They would be losing out though, because despite the fact that your parents would ask you not to show anyone the Room of Requirement and the kitchens and all that, you wouldn’t keep your promise very long. You’d wander the school with your friends, taking them to all the secret places and introducing them to the house elves, ghosts and portraits that raised you. Hogwarts would be your home.