The higher we climb, the harder we fall…

Trigger warning: I touch on the topics of mental illness, addiction and eating disorders in this piece.

Watching Demi Lovato’s docu-series on Youtube ‘Dancing with the Devil’, which chronicles their journey with addiction and their road to recovery, got me thinking this weekend about just how fragile we as humans are. We are flawed, often egotistical yet constantly learning as we navigate each stage of life. Why is it then that we love to put fellow humans on pedestals, elevating them to a standard even they themselves often feel they cannot reach?

This is one of the things Demi touches on during the documentary, as over the years they have become somewhat of a role model for many when it comes to mental health advocacy. However, what no-one knew was that they were battling with addiction on the side lines; making the public perception of them and what the real Demi was like as different as night and day.

I honestly could not imagine the amount of pressure such expectations can place on a person. You have 5,10,15-year-olds saying your art has changed their lives or got them through a hard time and that one day they want to be like you. It would be impossible to shrug that off without feeling some sort of burdensome weight of a duty to live up to this fantasy they have moulded of you.

Humans were not designed to be worshipped (for several obvious reasons.) A key one being we don’t have it all together, we don’t possess the perfection that is exclusively associated with God. Being idolised can definitely build ego but it can also create a quick path to inner destruction. Celebrity worship is often reductive – individuals are often being lauded all the time for a carefully crafted perception of themselves they and their teams have worked hard to portray. Or more simply, it could be because of looks alone or a talent like basketball or singing that makes people all googly eyed. Unfortunately, such talents are fleeting – they can take years to build and be gone in a matter of minutes.

So, in other words, we’re never really worshipping celebrities for who they are because we’ll never be privy to the real them, we’re in love with who we think they are. The unrealistic expectations of others become internalised which can then manifest themselves in toxic ways – for Demi, for example this was through disordered eating. This coupled with the toxic nature of cancel culture means there’s also a pressure to never step over the line. Making mistakes (whether publicly or not) is part of growing up but nowadays, one wrong step and your career is in jeopardy.

Demi isn’t the only one who has recently grappled with mental health in the public eye. Naomi Osaka recently withdrew from the French Open after being forced by event organisers to since they wouldn’t allow her to pass on media interviews for the sake of her mental health. Jesy Nelson, former member of the British girl band Little Mix recently left the band, stating reasons related to the protection of mental health. Similarly, in the past many other celebrities have been open about their struggles with mental illness – Billie Eilish, Kanye West and even Mariah Carey, to name a few.

Of course, fame hasn’t been the direct cause of mental health struggles for many celebrities but it can certainly exacerbate them, especially if they previously existed before fame. For Naomi and Jesy it seemed as if they had reached the point where mental wellbeing and peace could not exist alongside the environment they were working in, so an ultimatum was reached. The fact many people, famous or not, have to choose between their work or mental wellbeing is very unfortunate. It shows – despite or the lovely ‘discussions’ we are having around mental health – we still have a long way to go in properly providing the related support people need for recovery, treatment or prevention.

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Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in reading more on celebrity culture I wrote about some thoughts after watching the Framing Britney Spears documentary which you can read here.

The Evil within: A review of Girl From Nowhere

‘Underneath it all we’re just savages, hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages’ – Savages by Marina and the Diamonds

Many theories have argued throughout time that without the laws, social conventions and norms society has created, humans would truly not function properly. The result? Think Lord of the Flies/ The Purge type anarchy. Of course, we’ve never been in the conditions to truly test the validity of this line of thought but if many true crime cases, past and present, have taught us anything is that in the right circumstances humans will naturally care about nothing but themselves.

Recently I’ve been watching the Thai drama on Netflix, Girl from Nowhere. The series centres around a seemingly innocent girl named Nanno who joins a school and starts causing havoc by bringing out the inner demons in those around her. In each episode she operates in a new school and deals with different characters who battle with different individual vices. For the most part she acts as their tempter, the snake to their Eve, honing in on their deepest desires and dangling in front of them something that will unlock them if only they take the bait.

What distinguishes this drama from many others is that not much is revealed about its mysterious protagonist at all – all we do know is that she is devious – borderline genius, borderline maniac. She also doesn’t appear to human meaning the lengths she goes to to teach people the error of their ways will undoubtedly shock you. A Thai audience may perhaps see Nanno has an executor of karmic justice, avenging those who have been wronged and punishing wrongdoers for acts that may have otherwise gone unpunished.

However – and bafflingly so – in some episodes she does seem to torment people that don’t necessarily seem to deserve it. (TK from season one (ep8) and Jenny X from season 2 (ep7)) come to mind.) Yes, they have their issues but then again who doesn’t? Does makes you wonder a bit about how exactly Nanno goes about choosing her targets…

Lots of questions are raised and I enjoy the subtle social commentary found in each episode. Ultimately at the heart of each episode is the question, can this person change? It seems like the assumption to this question in most of the dramas episodes is ‘no’, although we can never say for sure with certainty.

Season two was recently released (which I have now finished 😅) and definitely ups the ante whilst, interestingly, revealing a possible more ‘human’ side to Nanno.

Note that although I would recommend the drama, I would do so cautiously since it has very dark themes (it is rated an 18 on Netflix). A few twitter users have circulated guide with trigger warnings for each episode of season one, which may prove useful. For those who liked the popular drama Black Mirror (also on Netflix) then this drama is definitely for you.

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Have you watched Girl from Nowhere or do you perhaps have it on your Netflix list? Share below and we can discuss! 😊

Some films I’ve recently watched on Netflix include: The Woman in the Window, Run (Netflix film featuring Sarah Paulson), Love Squared, Rich in Love and Atlantics.

*Featured image belongs to Netlfix.

Image description: Protagonist Nanno stands leaning on a wall within a corridor, wearing a school uniform whilst looking into the distance.

You Had to Be There

Sometimes moments are just for us

Between us two

Between our eyes, between our hearts, between our lips.

As gravity pulls us down and love draws us closer

We’re sworn to silence with

echoes of laughter

It’s often very hard to capture certain moments you experience in words. This is why I’ve often been in awe when celebrities who go on late night shows like Graham Norton retell funny stories with the enthusiasm and enough dramatics in the right places to have you hooked and eventually chuckling. Perhaps the skill partially lies in their acting training, after all mastering the ability to create whole worlds with your words would, naturally I presume, make you a great storyteller. It’s likely they’ve had practice telling certain stories too since I’m sure some have the ability to be natural crowd-pleasers wherever they go.

However, on the other hand, sometimes when I retell a story I can just hear myself letting the story down, not doing justice to the moment itself and how vivid or exciting it was. How scared or taken by surprise I was. Or how elated I felt. It’s almost feels like how when you boil certain vegetables, they tend to lose the goodness they hold in their raw state. You’ve experienced the ‘raw goodness’ of the moment (so to speak) and now or you can serve those who weren’t there is the boiled leftovers of that moment.

Moment 4 Life

To be honest, this inability to capture some moments in words is not always a bad thing. It can actually make you more appreciative of the moments you share with those close to you because it’s likely that outside of the bubble of that moment between you and the people within it, the magic of it cannot be recreated.

Sometimes when on the verge of such moments I often get excited and – with the anticipation – even feel a tinge of sadness as I imagine the moment fizzling to an end and becoming a simple memory. Does anyone else experience that or is it just me? The best way to describe it is like the anticipation you feel as you bake something and are watching the batter rise in the tin through the small oven window. You’ve done everything the recipe instructed, and now you’re expecting greatness. Of course, with moments you experience there’s lot of other factors that come into consideration; even if you’re with your favourite people or person in a great place, moods, actions and conversation need to align to create that magical spark you’ll remember for years to come when recollecting that period. It’s not often the spark happens, but when it does – especially unexpected – it’s really beautiful.

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Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to follow my blog here and on Instagram @TheArtofChatter

Liked this topic? You can find another post I’ve done exploring the nature of memories here or one on special moments here.

*Featured Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Alcoholic

He looks into his glass

Hoping to see the reflection of a saviour

In the swirl of brown liquor before him.

Propped up by the blindness of others

He sips and is violently propelled to a high

Of ethereal happiness

Narrowly just avoiding the grasps of reality

By ordering another drink

Embracing Uncertainty

No Risk, No Reward

‘Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’ – Matthew 6:34

It’s impossible to live a live free from risk. Even if you think you live a comfortable life, it just means it has minimal risk as opposed to no risk at all.

Every decision we make involves stepping into the unknown (even if it’s just a tiny step); from accepting a new role, to starting a new relationship or moving to a new location.

I don’t know about you but I get very annoyed when I don’t know enough things. You think the problem of ignorance will lessen over time but the truth is it never does. In a world of constant change, we will always have gaps in our knowledge – collectively as a species and individually in life too. It means when you’re making a decision and you don’t have all the information (which is always.) You wonder, will this decision work out to my benefit or to my good?

Interestingly, although we all similar risks in life, society is designed to celebrate those who made risks that paid off. The person who happened to invest stock in a start-up eventually valued at billions. The marriage that has lasted over 50 years. The mother who happened to have raised the next flashiest millionaire. Subconsciously, it puts a lot of pressure on us when we make big decisions. We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to be ridiculed. We don’t want to be the ones that it goes wrong for which means we then have to experience the aftermath of comparing ourselves to others who made a risk and thrived. So yes, as I said – a lot of pressure. But also, a lot of worry and fear. If you have the habit of overthinking, like I do, then it’s easy for feelings to leave you in a state of paralysis.

Taking charge, having faith

Ultimately, even if armed with all the information humanly possible, a decision we make can still go left. You can research a house and area thoroughly, or spend time dating someone and getting to know them properly for several years. However, it won’t always prepare you for things you’ll discover when you finally buy the house and are living in it or when you’re living with that person as a married couple.

Unfortunately, there are some things you just won’t know until you lived through the experience and have a story to tell. I’m starting to learn that an important part of life is embracing uncertainty, and taking risks despite them. Obviously, do this with discernment – try and make informed decisions and reflect on the source of your uncertainty since (especially in relationships) it can sometimes be a red flag. However, I am a strong believer that God knowing all and us knowing not much in comparison is definitely not a mistake.

Investing in Rest

‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work.’- Genesis 2:2

True story – in the process of writing this post I was looking for a nice little quote to compliment it on the topic of rest. I was quite surprised to find the quotes on rest that I found were mostly negative. Some examples below:

‘You’ll have time to rest when you’re dead’ – Robert De Niro

‘If you rest, you rust’ – Helen Hayes

Rest vs work

Embedded deep in the mentality behind such quotes is the belief that rest is counterproductive to getting work done. However, to avoid falling for such fallacy it is important to always think of the bigger picture – a period of rejuvenation helps us not only get more work done in the long-run, it also helps us get better work done. Of course, I found some more positive quotes later on but these quotes indicate a wider problem in our society – we really don’t know how to rest. I’ve written a bit about this topic here in a previous blog post, but as we continue life post-Easter break in the UK (which was hopefully filled with rest for many), I wanted to touch on it some more.

The social media hustle and grind culture, which primarily focuses on non-stop working in order to be wealthy can be quite counterproductive at times. For example, the rise in young people having a ‘side hustle’ – has been very transformative to some, I’m sure, but it also means a now blurred line between rest and work since an activity which used to be part of the former for you, has now become the latter. Statistics from 2018 showed 40% of people in the UK who were surveyed had a side hustle. 40%! Someone tweeted the other day an observation that this trend of young people in particular monetising their hobbies is really not normal, and I’m inclined to agree. As mentioned in the article just linked, the rise of side hustles is due to increasing job insecurity, an issue which, like many others, has likely only been exacerbated by the pandemic. All I’ll say is, nothing – not even the alluring promise of success and wealth, is worth killing yourself over. Do note, I’m not anti-side hustle, but I do believe with such endeavours it can become all to easy to stretch yourself thin, that’s all.

Rest = doing nothing?

You may have noticed that above I referred to activities that help with your rest. Contrary to the way it is sometimes portrayed in the media, the art of resting is not just limited to sleep or doing nothing at all. Certain activities we enjoy have a calming effect on us and are perfect for unwinding – whether it be stretching, baking or going for a stroll.

A month or two ago, for example, I did a colouring in activity as part of church weekend retreat (done virtually this year, of course) and I have to say it was surprisingly very refreshing. It’s quite a mindless activity and honestly it was the first time I had done it since I was a child. For a split moment of your day, your only and foremost concern is co-ordinating colours and colouring within the lines of the image outline. I can now understand why in recent years adult colouring books have been trending.

Here are some things that could perhaps restore your work/life balance and help you get better rest:

  • Know the signs of burnout – physical tiredness, headaches, irritation, lack of concentration etc. Being burnt out makes it harder to work so it’s important to know the signs so you can quickly dial things back in and get some rest.
  • Say NO – it is important to be possessive with your me-time, don’t make it ‘us’ time bybending to the needs of others
  • The importance of discipline – put that work device away – it can wait till after your holiday or weekend is over!
  • What is your escape? – have a magic carpet – something that can you can temporarily dive into to relax and distract you a bit from the world’s madness. For me it’s definitely books and TV shows; what are yours?

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Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

Make sure to follow my blog on IG @TheArtofChatter

The Mystery of Love 2.0 – when love and tech collide: A Review of The One and Love Alarm (Season 2)

I’m sure if you surveyed the average person, they would tell you that they wanted to find love (if they haven’t already.) However, that journey is a tough, steep one that holds many challenges for several reasons. Social media, and much later, dating apps have already transformed the dating process massively in a relatively short space of time. The two most recent dramas I’ve watch watched on Netflix explore how technology (and science) could further impact dating and relationships in the future and what the effects on individuals lives could look like. Worth a watch or not? Have a read and decide.

The One

The One, Netflix review - the downside of scientific matchmaking
Rebecca Webb (right) with co-founder of The One and close friend from university days, James (left).

This is a new British sci-fi drama and Netflix original consisting of 8 episodes, based on a book of the same by John Marrs. I watched it recently after seeing it in my upcoming list of shows and being intrigued by the blurb (the apps good ol’ algorithm never seems to fail, eh?) In the drama ‘The One’ is the name of the company which provides a matching service based on DNA. It’s as simple as you think – people take swabs, send them to the company and find out who their biologically destined match is! The series follows Rebecca Webb, co-creator and CEO of The One as she goes through desperate lengths to find happiness herself and maintain her position of power at the top of the company. Yet, as the series goes on we find out Rebecca is a woman with a lot to hide and this begins to look less and less possible as secrets are revealed and lives are lost. Definitely worth a watch.

Although, a slightly deterministic approach to love upon initial reading, the interesting thing about this matching approach is that choice does play a huge role in the success of matches. This is contrary to what many of the users of the service seem to think in the drama. Their mentality is ‘we’ve been ‘matched’ so you must be my soulmate, we’re meant to be!’ Which, as you watch the drama, will find to not necessarily be the case. DNA alone cannot be a sole indicator of a good partner, several other factors have to come together to create a successful relationship. As many of the characters discover – secrets, selfishness and lies can easily put an end to any potential happiness you may have or think you serve with your match.

Love Alarm (season 2)

This K-drama is based on a popular web-toon (online comic) of the same name. In the drama, relationships are largely dictated or guided by a widely used app called Love Alarm, which is able to notify you if anyone within a certain radius from you has feelings for you. It was originally created by the protagonist’s (Kim JoJo) former classmate, Chon Duk-gu – an illusive and shy character, who admits he created the app because of his difficulty deciphering the feelings of people around him. To simply the app, it helps users answer the question ‘does my crush (or partner) like me back?’

Is Love Alarm season 2 getting renewed? Here is everything you need to  know!!
Promotional poster for the show – from L to R – Sun-Oh, Kim JoJo and Hye-yeong

For those that have battled with frustration caused by mixed signals from someone they liked, this app sounds quite dreamy. Yet – since there’s always a yet – it doesn’t take long to discover it, like the DNA matching service in The One, has its problems. We don’t necessarily see how widespread usage of the app is working, but rather we see a microcosm of its effects through the drama’s main characters. One obvious effect it provides a very awkward and public display of unrequited ‘love’. If two individuals are in close proximity of each other the app will notify one of those people that ‘someone who loves you is within close distance’. However, for the other person…it won’t which can be both scary and heart-breaking.

The app starts to act as an obstacle for characters who are in relationships on the show. For example, Sun-oh’s girlfriend reveals that she dreams about him ringing her love alarm – something he is not able to do when they’re dating. Similarly, due to events from the previous season, Kim JoJo is not able to ring the ‘alarm’ of anyone she likes because she has a feature called a ‘shield’ installed on her app. In her relationship with Hye-yeong, this slowly starts to torture her as she begins to suspect that maybe this is saddening her boyfriend and causing him to doubt her feelings for him.

To Conclude…

Overall, I would say that both dramas show how technology – as we undoubtedly already know – can do more harm then good, even if created with the sincerest intentions. We already use much tech at work and in the home successfully. But with widespread and frequent usage in many circumstances we run the risk of using tech as a crutch, much to our own disadvantage. It tends to happen gradually and then – next thing you know, you can’t remember the birthdays or phones numbers of your friends with your phone, for example! (Based on a true story.) In both shows, we see technology has altered the process of dating and its requirements for many people. The agency seems to shift from self to tech so instead the characters fall into the trap of not thinking for themselves enough. Don’t get me wrong, love is an amazing thing but I think it needs a bit of mystery and effort; surely then the product is more rewarding?

Why Sharing is (not always) Caring

I realised quite a while ago that I hate borrowing things to people. As most things do, it probably stems from my experience as a child in secondary school (high school, for the non-British folks).  

Back then I was always eagerly borrowing people my pens, pencils – and even money but rarely getting my items back. At the time I had just started getting into graphic novels; I reading a fantastic graphic novel series of Manga-version Shakespeare novels which I had borrowed from my local library. After talking to a friend – let’s call her Janie – about the series something possessed me to borrow her the book, no harm, right? So I thought. After all, I see her everyday so receiving the book back should be a straight forward process. Janie was in the year below me but we always hung out in the library together since we loved books, they were the main building block of our bond. Days stretched out to weeks and each time I asked Janie about the book she always had an excuse. After buying herself a few months she eventually coming clean that she had lost the book. I remember feeling a sharp pang of disappointment, although it was basically a confirmation of what I had already suspected. 

Don’t lend what you can’t afford to lose 

Now, as a fully-fledged adult, you wouldn’t dare catch me borrow one of my books to someone – they’re prized possessions. Also, my secondary school experience taught me something – once you borrow someone an item of yours, you do so with the optimistic belief that they will treasure it like their own. Of course, this is hardly the case in my experience. A random experience that comes to mind is when I watched someone use my pen in class (which I had loaned to them) and they started biting it. BITING IT. It was probably an absent-minded gesture, something they do with every pen or in the throes of concentrating, but COME ON – biting takes the mick. 

Nowadays I try to control the variables when it comes to borrowing or giving – it has to be something low value, that I can deal with losing or that I have many of, and has to be to someone I trust to a certain degree. So, chocolates or sweets – yes. Books or a prized pen gifted for my birthday – No, absolutely not. Boundaries such as these, I’ve learnt are the key to stress-free borrowing (if such a thing exists.) 

One of the reasons I take this seriously is because – like it or not – not being able to trust someone with your things can negatively affect your relationship with them. You may have to start reassessing their character or the things you trust them with. Of course, there may be legitimate reason why something can’t be returned to you but if this is a frequent occurrence? Then, yes – questions may need to be asked. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Inspired by Kindness 

I think the slightly sad thing about my aversion to borrowing is that it sometimes makes it a lot harder to give – especially in circumstances where it counts and can actually be lifechanging. For example, tithing in church used to be a constant struggle (things have changed in that department though, thank God.) Or even donating to a homeless person – my heart will be moved to action but my mind will put up a road block by whispering ‘won’t you need that money later, Hannah?’ 

I remember going for a walk with a friend and as we passed an off license, we came across a homeless person sitting opposite the shop. Without hesitation she offered to buy him a drink and listened as he weighed out his options. As we went into the store and hunted for his final choice – orange juice – I was moved by her kindness and the readiness she possessed to give. 

Admittedly, I’m still working on being more giving (so I’m not in much of a position to give advice) but I’ll end with that scene because to this day it still makes me smile. 😊 

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Have you had any bad experiences with borrowing people items or money? Comment below and let’s talk!

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