A Simple Life / #2 A Promise – Birthday Gift to Myself

Today is my birthday. I am now 26 years old and I don’t feel like 26-years old at all. Most people are already working my age, some are even married with children. And then there’s me, not having finished university yet with the same old problems I’ve been having for ages, and besides, I don’t look my age at all (which, I know, is actually a good sign, but some people still think I got to school?) For a few years now, I’ve been suffering from pre-birthday depression episodes. I just feel a sudden urge to stop time and not grow any older. I feel stubbornly reluctant to accept that I’m growing older, not that I have a problem with living longer but what the new number means for society (so, perhaps, my struggle really stems from the pressure of society?) Yet I am also the person who says to people who complain about their age (who are much older than me): ‘be grateful to have lived for so many years’. The advice we give to others we should also tell ourselves; or, we should give ourselves the same advice we give to others. On my birthday, I am no longer depressed. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I like the date and I feel the need to tell the world ‘hey, it’s my birthday. I hope you all have a great day!’ I somehow want everyone to be happy on this day.

Last night I wrote down a few things I want to promise myself. Kind of like new year’s resolutions but for your birthday, which kind of makes them more personal, don’t they? I started my list like this ‘Starting today, at the beginning of my 26 years of age I promise myself..’ and the list follows. So I thought I might share a few points. As I have been starting this today I cannot tell if this actually works out or not, but I hope it does (don’t we all?) and I will work hard to make it come true. I want to leave the old Mel behind, shed my skin like a snake, and get rid of all the things that no longer serve me so I can get closer to my true authentic self.

  1. Live freely.

I’ve always been overthinking, especially my own character. Since a young age, I’ve always been inspired by other people and refused my own self. I never liked myself. Only recently did I realise just for how long this has been going on. One of my therapists used to ask me ‘but what is so bad about the current Mel?’ and it always felt bewildering to me. Like, what is good about me? I just never felt good enough. I couldn’t like myself so who could? Well, I guess, some did and some still do or else I’d really be all alone. I want to end this toxic cycle and just be. Just be. Not overthinking anything. Say what I feel like saying, do what I feel like doing etc. We/I so often hold ourselves/myself back because we have to ‘act the part’ in society, and it’s so damn restrictive. When it rains I want to go outside and take a shower. When I’m in the mood I want to sing and dance, wherever I am. I want to laugh and cry freely without having to worry about how others see me. We only live once and not for so long, so we shouldn’t hold back. We are not machines that have to function all the time. We are humans and our emotions are what make us beautiful. So why hide them? We should stop assimilating and follow our heart, there lies love, not in our brains which oftentimes is hindering us instead of helping us to find happiness. So, this is what I promise myself from today on: to just go for it and be honest, to myself and others. I always thought of myself as an honest person ere I realised that I often don’t tell people when they hurt me. Some things people say or their long absence hurt me, but I brush it off because I’m so happy to hear from them again. But that isn’t right. Perhaps it is most scary to tell people close to you when they did something that hurt you, which makes it even more important to say it. Let it all out. As Dr. Seuss said: ‘Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.’ I want to live according to that quote. Most of the people, we will never see again. And honestly, most people don’t care. We are all way too busy with ourselves. So stop trying to please everyone, it is an impossible task. Live your own truth. But, I need to add this: always be kind. Following one’s heart’s desires shouldn’t mean to hurt others.

2. Everywhere you go, take you camera with you

I bought a fujifilm camera in London last year and I took some great photos, but recently my passion has lit a low point. That changed when I saw the trailer for a movie of a director who brought his camera everywhere he went. I immediately thought ‘I’m gonna do this from now on.’ We never know when we might find a great place, meet new people, or just see something nice to capture. I want to take more photos, especially of people I meet. There are some people to whom I am not that close, we are neighbours or meet because we have a common interest. I then even more so want to take a photo of them, so I won’t forget them. It might be weird to ask people to whom you are not so close to take a photo of them, but that’s also good practise. Photography inevitably takes you out of your comfort zone (unless you only want to photograph your room or your feet). It also trains your eyes and you will look closely at your surroundings. I love photography and want to take interesting photos, and also film again. Who knows, perhaps I’m going to put on some videos on youtube again. Who knows.

3. Be Tidy & Clean

Ok, this feels kind of embarrassing to write but I’ve never been a tidy person (hence, I want to become a minimalist. Most of us are people who could never clean in their childhood). I often don’t put things away right away and my first flats were only clean when I moved in and out. Yes, that’s the sad truth. Not just boys can be dirty. I didn’t really care but I always felt my stuff and the accumulating dirt flooding me like an avalanche. Even now, with already fewer things I still struggle to always be motivated to clean and tidy up. Yesterday I finished reading ‘A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind’ (by Shoukei Matsumoto) and I also want to clean every day from now on. We give it too little credit, but a clean house, a clean room has a direct impact on our mental health. With a cluttered room, our minds will be cluttered. Things will be harder to find. When everything has its own place and is clean then things will be easier to access and our mood will improve. There’s one enemy I have to fight in order to keep my promise: My laziness. I am a lazy person and rather lie in bed, dreaming of fighting demons and curses, instead of well..doing the things I should be doing. I still don’t know how to properly beat it (who does? hello? can anyone please tell me?) but if I do, I will let you know.

4. Never Overeat Again

Never sounds like an impossible word, and already while writing this down, I am sceptical. I overate just yesterday. I bought three magnum ice creams for the next three days, well guess what, I ate them all in one day! And the leftover bread, muesli, salted peanuts,…once I start eating my mouth turns into a vacuum and I let it all happen because I think ‘if I eat it all today I will start eating less tomorrow’. This is a typical thing to say for binge-eaters. We get our binge, have a good conscience for a while ere we feel disgusted with ourselves. That night I couldn’t fall asleep for hours. On my birthday! Great way to start the day…well, there is really only one way for me: not buy trigger foods! Whenever I told therapists about my binge-eating problem they’d say ‘just eat in moderation, don’t cut them all out.’ but that doesn’t work for me. I can’t do moderation!! Either I go all in or I don’t go for it at all. That has always been my mindset, and thinking about it, no wonder I can’t handle my food. So many times I buy a bar of chocolate and tell myself ‘every day I’ll eat a piece or two’ (Audrey Hepburn used to do that). It works for perhaps three days (if I’m lucky) – then I just eat the whole thing in one going. 100g of chocolate, but that’s not all. I eat everything until I feel physically sick. ‘People who eat in moderation’, you have no idea how lucky you are! For me, there’s only one solution: don’t buy the damn products. I’ve been cutting out sugar and gluten from my diet for over a month now (and still overate, but overeating on oats with milk and peanut butter isn’t thaaat bad) and I treat myself one time (salted peanuts in theatre) and I immediately start binging again. The third time is the charm so I say it again: I just can’t buy the products. Chocolate, peanut butter, (god I love these two things) and some other things are on my blacklist. I just can’t control myself when they’re around (and my kitchen is literally three footsteps away from my bed). Please pray for my stomach. I don’t want to hurt it anymore. I hate thrashing it. It works every day and I want to stop overworking it. It’s unhealthy and makes me feel uncomfortable physically and mentally. A moderate diet, eating just what is needed (80% before getting full), that’s all I want. Food is just food. We’ve been developing a whole hype culture around it and so many people have an unhealthy relationship with food nowadays. They either love it too much or hate it; or both (that’s me). It’s time to see it for what it is: nourishment. It keeps us alive. And it can make us feel good or bad, depending on what we eat. So let it be good, that we may live a happy life.

5. Enjoy Life

Now, this echoes the first point, I know. There are a few things I added here: ‘Stop pressuring myself.’ So often are we our worst enemies. When things don’t work out immediately or not as well as anticipated when we haven’t found the perfect guy, job, house, friend, whatever. When we pressure ourselves we think we are lacking something, hence, we are unhappy. We make ourselves feel miserable. ‘Why can’t I draw this stupid mouth?’ for example (anyone else getting really frustrated while drawing either the nose or mouth; or even worse, one eye looks good and the other is a catastrophe! Probably the most frustrating drawing experience). I also get that feeling when I’m playing musical instruments. I used to play the keyboard and then the guitar and I was so impatient with myself. When I played the wrong note I’d start over again until I play the next wrong note, and I would get angrier and angrier at myself, sometimes even shouting AAAAARGHHH!! and slamming the keys. Well, it is one way to release your anger, I guess. But it’s not healthy. Now I only have a kalimba and it is one of the most peaceful instruments (and very smart and handy! basically, a perfect musical instrument for the travelling minimalist), and this time I am not pressuring myself. I enjoy playing the notes, and when I do hit the wrong note I continue playing. Another example: I’ve been learning Japanese for over half a year now. I’ve always wanted to learn it. I did learn it in High School for a year, before dropping out. This time I am going through. I will learn it until I can speak it fluently. When? I don’t know and I don’t care. Ha, how relaxing. I just do it for the joy of it. I love this language. It has been the only language that could calm my heart, literally. When I was a teenager and stressed out, I’d watch any video with Japanese speakers, and listening to their voices calmed me down. I want to read Japanese novels in Japanese, and watch anime and Japanese dramas/movies without subtitles. Someday I’ll get there, but I also enjoy the ride. Learning new words every day. Sometimes I study more, sometimes less (honestly, it all depends on my mental health), but every day a little bit. It’s something I do every day, a real habit I’ve created, and I am quite proud of it. And not pressuring myself, giving myself a ‘deadline’, like, let’s say ‘I want to reach this or that level by the end of the year’, is a good way to learn a very complex language. Yes, I’d like to know the basics by the end of the year, that isn’t much and I will most likely reach that goal. Do things for the things, and don’t pressure yourself. Don’t expect to immediately draw or sing well. Everyone had to put in the time and effort. No one expects another person to learn a language in a day, and so we shouldn’t expect that in all other areas either. Be more patient to yourself – and kinder to yourself!

This is it for today. Now I am going to enjoy the day and try to be grateful for having lived for so long. There are many people who didn’t make it my age. Children die, teenagers die, people in their early 20s die. Every birthday is a celebration of still being alive, every day is a gift. Everything else is peer pressure. You don’t need to achieve anything at any given age. When I was a teenager I thought I would have life figured out in my twenties. I think most teenagers think that way, until they turn 20 themselves. Who really has life figured out? I think it’s people who are happy with little: who enjoy life for being alive; not because they’re rich or popular or possess some cool stuff. Life is about living. That’s all there is to it. We get to choose how to live it and with what mindset; every day. I know that is easier said than done (hello, I do have a mental illness) but you know, sometimes, when I am not directly suffering from depression, I do see it as a blessing in disguise, or more like a teacher. Because of my depression, I can see life in a different way. I know what it’s like to live in Hell. For many years I had suicidal thoughts on a daily basis. I still get them. When you’ve been through that, joy feels even more joyous. Happiness feels different, you don’t take it for granted. When life no longer feels like a survival but you feel like living again; you can be proud of yourself because depression is one big bad monster to fight. I just want to live my life and have peace of mind. That is what is really important to me. You can’t buy peace of mind, but when you have it, you have it all. I don’t strive for a great career, a big house, much money, a perfect husband/wife, or whatever. I know that happiness cannot be found in those ideals, especially not in things. It’s the small things in life that make it worthwhile. Spending time with people you like, drinking a good cup of coffee or tea, being able to experience nature, having a body that works hard to move us around, having food and water,… we don’t need much to be happy and we need even less to be happy. Really, all we need is ourselves and good company (and food, to stay alive). If I were to die tomorrow that’s one thing I’d like to share: look around and see the things you already have. So often we only think of what’s missing. I want a partner, the new iPhone, live in that city, go on vacation there, etc. we totally miss out on what we already have. And no matter your life, no matter how hard it is, there are always things to be grateful for; even if it’s just for experiencing one more day on planet earth.

much love,



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