CHEESE KLAXON. It’s a bit of a deep and meaningful one, so as long as you look favourably upon the mozzarella (who doesn’t?), come and get involved. Also, lashings of cheese is a not new thing for this little corner of the internet.
So… I wrote the below piece for a writing competition. Inevitably it didn’t win but I wanted to post it here anyway.
The brief for the competition was to write about ‘being in my element’. Where I felt free, happy, content. My initial thought was to write about cycling, but when I started tapping away it all felt a little obvious.
As a species we are constantly defined by statistics and numbers: 1 in 4 women, 30% of young people, figures on the scale, balances in the bank, even subscribers, followers and retweets. We have been taught to measure our worth by what we have, not who we are or what we bring to the world. I have in recent years come to realise this and refocused my attention accordingly instead of worrying about things that don’t, in the grand scheme of things, really matter as much.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I spent far too long as a teenager (and beyond) trying to be someone I felt I should be in comparison to others – to fit in, to feel a sense of worth – instead of just paying attention to bettering the person I actually was. It took me a long time to clock that not only was that person was pretty ok in her own right, but that the ones I needed in my life were the ones who would bring out the best in me, and given the seven billion of our species that grace our glorious planet, that there would be plenty of those people around.
The below is giving a big fat cheesy nod/hug/high five to a particular one of them who betters me without even trying. They better me because they make me feel entirely alive – simply by being completely wholly and utterly myself. It is rare that we feel most in our element when we have let all guards, barriers and facades down, particularly in a world where we spend our lives filtering, projecting, covering up and breathing in, and that is what I was really hoping to convey here. I maintain over and over again that despite the dicks of this world, people are predominantly and overwhelmingly wonderful. People – the right ones – allow us to be challenged, to learn, to grow, to laugh and ultimately to love. Isn’t that what this is all about, really?
I’m doubled over laughing, tears streaming down my cheeks. My face is crumpled up and beetroot-like, the day’s make up has long since slid off my face. And for once, in a world where we constantly present ourselves as reversioned, refurbished, refreshed, I don’t care. I’m shut away from the remnants of the day, the sunset over the urban skyline pouring into the room in a haze of pink and gold. The pressure of who I have to be in a professional environment is lifted, and my armour against the big bad world is removed. I’m howling with an innocence that left me a couple of decades ago.
There’s a tired old blanket around my shoulders, a glass of red in my hand and I’m breathing out fully in the way that you mustn’t; laughing away the intricate stresses and strains of the working day. London and it’s alluring plethora of options provides nothing but the background hum of car engines, clicking heels and the pulling away of buses heavy with the weariness of an endless commute somewhere below. My head is out of my phone and instead thrown back in hysterics; I’ve disconnected myself from this chronically connected world. My Twitter feed isn’t busy informing my thoughts so I don’t have to form my own, and my Instagram isn’t glaring at me with a multitude of filters that leave me feeling distinctly flat because I don’t have what’s considered a bikini body (despite the fact that I have a body and I own a bikini that fits), nor do I have a pert pair of DDs or a thigh gap.
But what I am, right here in my element, is illuminated. Entirely alive. More alive than any stream full of thousands of dead-eyed selfies, where beautiful, natural smiles are contorted into pouts for fear of an inadvertent double chin. The horror. In this moment I’m not taking a picture because I’m too busy being in the moment, gasping for air between booming laughs instead of weaving, head down and brow furrowed, between the noise and the people and the subtle but ever-present tension of being encompassed by a city full of people who are always in a hurry; so busy getting from one moment to the next that we miss all the wonderful moments in between. Despite the Technicolor capital being still very much alive for the night in all its seductive, wonderful glory, I have everything I could ever want and at the same time nothing at all in front of me in this mismatched room. The everything is nothing because she’s not a thing, she’s a person, the only soul in the world who can make me laugh, cry and wee a little bit, simultaneously, all within five minutes of walking through the door. Right here, on the shabby old sofa, I am in my element because I am with my element. And that, to me, is friendship. And it is everything.