News from Madrid: I’m starting to enjoy my time here more. I’ve (finally) realised that if I don’t trek in to the centre and back 3 hours every day for this silly one hour language class then I have more time to myself for private learning etc, reading and watching programmes which should help me. I’m also looking for a morning job (be it cleaning, shop work, whatever) where I can practice my Spanish. On the Portuguese front, I keep meeting dozens of Brazilians who are living and working here so I get to practice with them a bit, even if that means that i keep getting confused when I try to speak Spanish. The people I’ve met are nice, but now it’s kind of awkward as I only want to be friends with them and these guys (I dunno,i could be wrong, the kissing and all the messages could just mean they’re uber friendly!!) seem to be interested in something more! EIK!! So every couple of days i have to find a new friend! Ha!! maybe i’ll try meeting more girls!
On the ‘me’ development front: Sorry that things are so me centric/ egocentric at the moment but the book I’m reading (in Spanish) says that you must get to know someone before you begin a relationship with them and that before you do that you have to get to know yourself and get to know who you are, which requires lots of me-time. (I think was his general argument…) anyway from this book, written by some Argentine doctor, I have discovered (or rather self diagnosed according to the general descriptions) that I am a paranoid, self-deprecating, mildly delusional, neurotic, ‘imbecilic’ (his word not mine), irrational, immature, attention-seeking, indecisive, dependent co-dependent with low self esteem, high standards and low body image. (Possibly also a bit of a hypochondriac!!) Now, where do you begin to sort out all that?!! haha. I feel the same way as someone who’d just moved house from a 10 bedroom mansion in LA to a 3 bed flat in Croydon on their own and had to work out somewhere to put all the stuff they had after they’d unpacked and sorted it all out i.e. a tad deflated, overwhelmed and unsure as where to begin. But at least in realising that I’m hugely dependent on the attention, advice and approval of others I can set about trying to do something to combat it. Getting to know yourself seems to me a bit of a scary task. I don’t really want others to get to know me in case they don’t like me. Silly, you’d say… because if they don’t you can always be sure to find someone else who does. But what about me? What if even i don’t like who I am? what then? Subconsciously I don’t think I’ve ever liked me. I remember being in primary school and asking my teacher if it was possible to have an operation where they changed your personality and practically ever letter writing practice I’ve done (since very little in English, to this day in German, Spanish, Portuguese) I’ve always chosen to sign myself off as someone else. Before I thought it was because I felt Harriet Hughes was a horrible and boring name. What if I actually believe that Harriet Hughes is a boring and horrible person? Man that felt weird. I’ve just written the words Harriet Hughes ‘is a boring and horrible person’ (twice!) What if that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy?! Ahhhhhh! I’m guessing somewhere after that comes to long road to self-acceptance.
The author of this book is quite right in contesting that egoism or self interest in the moral sense has been confused or tainted with the idea of selfishness or self-importance so much so that to take time out to do something your interested in, as opposed to the interests of others, seems a sin. To focus on yourself for a while seems arrogant and self-centered and seems to suggest a neglect for others. Therefore now, even asking someone to take your picture (at a certain event or place you wish to remember) or accepting a compliment from someone without modestly downplaying your talents seems arrogant. It is perfectly possible to see to your best interests whilst at the same time ensuring that this does not have a negative effect on someone else and that their interests are also seen to. I hope I’m getting this message right otherwise i’ll go from a young, naive, helpless, worrying, depressive kid with no practical skills into a slightly older more confident but more arrogant, self important nobody with an inflated self-esteem and still no praiseworthy, admirable talents to show for it. And that would be worse!
And whilst in the midst of this personal, self centred crisis and I am also excited. Excited for me and also for Tom and Ellie, as I think we have the most to gain (and the most to learn) from this year abroad. I don’t think either of them see it this way now but i think (or i hope) that by the end of the year they will have (to coin a really corny phrase) ‘blossomed’ evolved into beautiful self assured butterflies (How corny is that?!!) No no, in all seriousness i’m really excited to see the people they’ll become (and the person i’ll hopefully become too!). I know Tom believes that in trying to change myself I’m somehow radically altering who I am to please others and forgetting who i really am or some nonsense like that, but the truth of the matter is I am intent on radical change, on supplanting the new maturer adult me over the child I still am so that I am able to care for myself. I’m not forgetting or denying the child I am but rather adding to it, improving, upgrading to the new, better, faster, hi-speed, more technologically advanced me. And as for pleasing others.. well I’m trying hard to stop with that too. If I like something, then I like it and should not be afraid to admit it. If you do too, great! if not, then that’s fine too and there’s probably things that you like that i don’t. I know that you know all of this already, i’m just trying to show you that i do now too or maybe that I always knew them just didn’t feel like I had the confidence to put them into practice.
Every now and then someone, for some seemingly inexplicable reason, seems to like me. There have been a few teachers actually who, in spite of all the disruption in class and persistent tendency to do that other than which i have been told to do, found something in me somewhere which they liked. Then there have been the other odd friends who have seemed to genuinely like me… something I’ve always found impossible to comprehend. Happy though I undoubtedly was that they appeared to like me, I was nevertheless puzzled and intrigued as to why. So, I’m setting out to find out why. I know I have listed and could list countless other faults of mine, and it’s perhaps not particularly wise, or sane or beneficial to dwell on these and the many ways in which I’ve tried and failed to combat them, and to focus instead on the good points (the few that there may be) and try to extend these or amply these more to every day life.
The body issue thing i might have to leave for now, even though i’m daily reminded of what such a painful ridiculous thing it is by Marina. She is just 5 but already hates her curly dark hair on her head and the dark hairs she has on her legs. She is, by common consent, quite a pretty girl, but then again this seems barely to matter with regard to body image. Some of the biggest, largest, unsymmetrically-shaped people have a great body image of themselves, whilst others who are much thinner or aesthetically pleasing find it much more difficult. In her presence I try not to show my utter abhorrence of my body, how pale or misshapen it is, how I hate various aspects of it with a intense passion and how i shudder to think of the people that may have seen me naked and what they must have thought about it and I don’t want her to be concerned about these things (anymore than she already is). Emily tries to convince me that instead of seeing myself as a white unshapely blob waddling around in a next-to-nothing bikini or swimming costume and what an awful sight that must look, that i must think about how nice to water feels on my skin or the sun on my back (presupposing I forget for a minute the quite likely fact that I’m burning at that moment in time) and concentrate on that. It is hard, but possible for me to do this when I’m alone or with Marina but with others it’s still impossible. Whatever people may say image is important: Presidential candidates have lost election practically based on their decision to wear a pink shirt instead of a blue one, or have a beard or not and wear a coat. There are many polling companies which do such analysis of whether voters preferred the same candidate to deliver the same speech but dressed differently. How crazy is that? That this colour inspires this emotion, or not wearing a coat subliminally suggests that he is hard, or he a fighter or a man of the people. The same can be said for people in job interviews (which you could argue was what the presidential campaign was a long, extended very public job interview, or two or three..) So you can’t deny that image is important. Yes, other things are important too and arguably more important but forgetting it altogether is like forgetting to put on your trousers in the morning or to put the milk on your cereal. So I’m not quite ready to give up that obsession… just yet.