I’m stepping through the door

#DavidBowie

Throughout my life I’ve had dozens of diaries.

It was a popular gift to give to a young girl, so every Christmas I’d get a shiny new notebook and was told to write about my day-to-day there every evening. On the first of January I’d be so excited about starting my new diary that I wouldn’t even wait for the evening!

I’d open it up, flick through it’s blank pages, grab my favourite pen and start writing about anything that popped into my head.

Unfortunately, as with anything, I’d grow tired of having to write in my diary every day, especially when I had a lot of homework to do and didn’t have the time or the energy to write anything.

None of my diaries lasted longer than a month.

However, I’ve recently started writing my thoughts down. I’m not calling it a diary. There are no dates or templates, it’s just a small A6 notebook where I’ve allowed myself to write about anything.

Sometimes I write small stories, sometimes lists, other times I write about random thoughts that have popped into my head. And I’ve come to realise that writing about my problems helps me to get over them.

When you write about something that’s worrying or bothering you it can be very therapeutic. For one thing, you let all your frustrations out onto paper, and that’s always a weight off your chest. Then, you analyse it in a calmer state of mind.

I find that after writing about whatever is upsetting me I tend to ask myself questions about the problem. By asking myself those questions, I resolve my problem or am able to find a better way to think about it.

Here are some examples of questions I ask myself:

  1. Why am I feeling the way I am?
  2. Is it really worth it spending time agonizing about this?
  3. Is there anything I can do to solve this?

Writing in about my problems is what I imagine talking to a therapist must feel like.

My notebook is my personal therapist. So is this blog in a way. They’ve helped me overcome a lot.

What do you do when you have a problem?

Here’s a sketch.

Thinking

The Sardine

Small epiphany

No song references today.

Last Friday was my birthday.

I didn’t particularly plan a birthday party per say, as I hate planning them. I get way too stressed out about it and if people are enjoying themselves or not. This time I just sent a message to my friends saying, I’ll be in Lisbon, come meet me and we’ll have a few drinks.

On Saturday I went to work in the morning, had a very long birthday lunch with my family and then headed out to Lisbon with my boyfriend, who’d flown in for the weekend. We walked around, had dinner, and then decided to wait for my friends in a bar.

We ended up finding an izakaya (Japanese-style bar) and decided to go in, as we’ve been missing Japan. We started a conversation with the bartender, who was there trying to learn Portuguese. We drank sake and ate snacks and waited for my friends.

They started messaging me saying that they were late.

This was expected, they’re never on time. I told them to be there at 10pm but knew they’d only show up by 12.

Then my best friend showed up. We had a few drinks still in the izakaya.

Then people started saying they weren’t coming. They were too tired.

At the time I just ignored it and continued enjoying myself, it was a really pleasant evening. And I got to practice my Japanese, which is always good.

But when I was in bed a sadness took over me.

They couldn’t be bothered to make the effort and come to have a drink. What the hell? What kind of friends are they? I always make the effort to go out and see them. I even decided to have drinks in Lisbon because it was more convenient for them. And they couldn’t even get off their lazy asses and have a fucking drink with me on my birthday?

I pushed those feelings deep down so I could enjoy the rest of the weekend with my boyfriend. We enjoyed the sunshine, played with my parents’ dog, watched MotoGP (big fan) and on Monday I drove him to the airport.

Once he was gone, I opened that box of feelings up again. It didn’t help that I was already feeling down, saying goodbye to my boyfriend is never easy. My thoughts turned so negative that I decided to just spend the day watching Netflix until I had to go to work, just to distract me.

Then, a couple days later, as I was putting my thoughts down in my writing notebook, I realised that I’m really to blame for feeling so negatively about my friends.

I’m not saying that it wasn’t upsetting that they didn’t show up, but I’m the one who’s putting all these expectations on my friends and getting disappointed by myself. It’s always been difficult to get them together and they have really busy schedules.

All this frustration is coming from myself. I need to stop wasting energy on things that I can’t control, and learn to appreciate what I do have. Instead of feeling upset because my friends are too busy or too tired to come and see me, I should enjoy the fact that they find time in their busy schedules to go out with me from time to time.

After this small epiphany, I’ve been feeling a lot better, I’m not even upset anymore and look forward to seeing my friends whenever they have the time.

Here’s another sketch of Cat Noir from Miraculous Ladybug. Once I started, I just had to keep going. This one was made digitally.

Chat_Noir (1)

The Sardine

I know I’ll never lose affection

#TheBeatles

As you may know, I’ve taken on the task of decluttering my teenage room while I’m staying at my parents’ until the end of June (I’m in between moving countries).

One of the things I loved as a child – and when I say loved, I mean LOVED – was stuffed animals. Until now, my room’s been covered in stuffed animals, big and small. Some of them I’ve had since I was a 2 year-old!

As I emptied my shelves of DVD cases and CDs and my room started to look emptier, I finally noticed the extent of stuffed animals I had in my room.

It reminded me of the time my aunt (who’s 15 years younger than me, long story) was visiting. She must’ve been 3 or 4 at the time, and when I told her that we could go to my room and play with my stuffed animals, she looked at me wide-eyed and said:

“But old people don’t have toys.”

Arrow through the heart.

This was a good 10 years ago.

I grabbed some bags, climbed onto a chair and threw all of my stuffed animals down onto the floor. I filled three large bags and gave them all to a neighbour who’s part of a church group and she distributed them to those who couldn’t afford toys for their children.

In the end, I didn’t feel remorse or anything of the sort. I kept a few stuffed animals, of course, I’m still not over my obsession – especially after spending a year in Japan, land of cute stuffed animals – but they all fit in a little corner of my room.

I’m not sleeping in the middle of a stuffed animal petting zoo anymore.

I know that if I told hardcore minimalists that I kept some because I might want to give them to my children one day, they would have told me to just man up and throw them all away. That keeping things just because of what might happen is idiotic. But hey, to each his own, right?

Here’s a sketch of Chat Noir. Anyone familiar with Miraculous Ladybug? Really cool children’s cartoon. When you feel an artist’s block coming, it’s good to draw in someone else’s style to get past it.

chat noir pencil

 

The Sardine

 

 

 

 

And I’m feeling good

#NinaSimone

Clearing all the crap out of my humongous desk hasn’t been easy.

My desk is really long. It can even open up so it can be even longer. My parents bought it for me because I was very enthusiastic about art and wanted a lot of space for drawing.

My desk has cabinets both under and over it. They’re completely full of stuff. I couldn’t tell you what they have inside them with certainty if you asked me. But I can assure you that most of it I’ve kept for sentimental reasons.

My desk is the centre of my life. It’s where I work, where I write, where I draw, where I leave everything that’s important and where I dump all my trash. Clearing out my desk means clearing out my entire room.

It was daunting just to start.

But I rolled my sleeves up one morning and got to work.

The first thing I did, as I’ve mentioned before (check it out here), was to clear out all of my old sketchbooks and unused art materials, which was a heart-wrenching experience. But at the same time, getting rid of my past so-called achievements was something I think was nevessary for me to move on.

Then I tackled the mountains of paper, receipts and documents that I’d left on top of it. Now they’re all sitting neatly inside a folder on the bookshelf or have been dumped in the nearest recycling bin.

I then tackled my stationery, computer wires, old chargers, loose CDs, DVDs, notebooks, etc.

I leave a lot of crap on my desk.

But the thing is that, when tackling the stuff on my desk I either had to find a new and better place for it or to throw it away. And as I threw away a DVD case that was on my desk I just had to do the same with all my other DVDs. So I did.

Then I copied a CD to my external drive, which gave me the idea of giving all my CDs away as well. So I copied all my music to my external drive.

All of this was very time consuming.

It made me wonder if it would it ever end?

This decluttering of my teenage room has left me feeling both raw and light.

Ripping the posters off the walls and emptying the shelves of old books, DVDs and CDs has been sentimental, but it has also given my room a new look. A look that feels more creative and liberating. Like I’m shedding layers of the past and growing a new, albeit fragile, skin.

It’s been difficult, but worth it.

Here’s a very time consuming sketch.

スキャン0001

The Sardine

 

 

You can go your own way

#FleetwoodMac

Lately I’ve been trying to be more present.

When I read in the living room I don’t turn the TV on. If I’m with my friends or relatives I don’t look at my phone (or try not to).

But it’s difficult to be completely present all the time. Especially when I’m teaching.

I’m a teacher, by the way.

When I’m teaching my thoughts often wonder. Whenever my students are completing a task or writing I’ll catch myself thinking about other things, especially if I’ve been writing that day. I go through plots in my head or have ideas for a blog post and then I find myself wishing for the lesson to be over so I can start working on that.

It made me wonder if teaching was actually something that I was passionate about.

And before I finished writing that question in the tiny notebook I carry with me all the time I already knew the answer: yes.

I love teaching. I love getting to know my students and watching them get better with each lesson.

I love teaching, even though sometimes I can’t be bothered to work.

Being passionate about something doesn’t mean that you’ll always enjoy doing it, there’ll always be moments when we don’t think we can keep going. Being passionate about something means pushing through those moments and not giving up on what you’re doing, on what you know you love.

I don’t know if teaching is what I want to do for the rest of my life, but why do we have to put ourselves under that much pressure? Why not just enjoy what we’re doing at the moment and if later on it doesn’t interest us as much we can always focus on something else.

There’s no such thing as lifelong positions or careers. That’s a concept from previous generations that doesn’t work anymore.

Let’s stop living under the outdated notion that to be happy we have to get a job, buy a house, get married and have kids.

Let’s make our own paths and see where they lead us.

Here’s a sketch.

DSC_3710 (2)

The Sardine

 

Comfortably numb

#PinkFloyd

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’m an extremely lazy person.

When it comes to work I work as hard as I can and have the motivation to keep going until the job is done. I like going the extra mile.

But when it comes to my free time, I’m hopeless. I can spend the whole day in front of the TV and not even want to move out of the couch.

Sometimes I justify my laziness. I’ll draw at the same time as I watch yet another episode of Hannibal, I’ll write notes as I rewatch The Prince of Egypt for the millionth time and I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something that day.

This is what I did last Sunday, by the way. With all this talk of making choices and using my time in a more meaningful way, I haven’t really fixed the problem that the weekend brings for me.

The difference was that last Sunday I didn’t feel completely fine about spending the whole day in front of the TV. At the end of the day I thought to myself: yes, I’ve drawn something and yes, I’ve written a bit, but if I hadn’t been watching TV at the same time, I would’ve drawn and written a lot more than what I did.

If I had been more productive, maybe I’d have written a new chapter for my story, or drawn a lot more, maybe even gotten my watercolours and ink out and started that sketchbook that I didn’t throw away in the hopes of getting back into sketching (see previous post).

Could have, would have, should have.

I can’t change how I spent my Sunday, but I can change the Sundays to come. I’ve made a list of things that I should spend time on over the weekend. I haven’t made a schedule for them as I usually do, and I’m not saying that I have to spend a certain amount of time on them no matter what, but that I should consider doing them instead of sitting on the couch in front of the TV. Making lists and making schedules is a thing that I love to do, but when I miss out on a day I just give up on the whole thing.

So here are the suggestions:

  1. Draw digitally and on paper.
  2. Write for the blog and for my story.
  3. Spend time with friends or family.
  4. Go out, either to walk or to do something educational / cultural.

And I’ve also decided to try an experiment similar to my no chocolate week (see previous post), I’ll be having a no Netflix week, starting today.

I know why I sit in front of the TV for a whole day and don’t budge. It usually happens when I’m feeling down. It’s very difficult to motivate yourself to do anything if you’re depressed. But maybe if I ask myself whether or not I’m using my time in a meaningful way I might nudge myself into moving.

At least I’ll plant a seed of doubt in my brain, and that might grow into action.

How do you pull yourself out of numbness?

Here’s the drawing I made in front of the TV.

Classy

The Sardine

Any colour you like

#PinkFloyd

The more I throw away, the better I feel.

However, I’ve found that finding a new home for my things feels more rewarding than throwing them in the bin. Of course, not everything can be given or donated, some things do belong in the trash, but if you can make people happy with the stuff you don’t need, that’s a victory in itself isn’t it? After all, someone’s “trash” can add value to someone else’s life.

Yet, with all this decluttering we tend to forget that that isn’t what’s going to solve our problems. Having a less cluttered house will definitely help with getting you more time and reducing stress, but if you don’t do anything with that extra time then you’ll still feel like there’s something missing.

More important than decluttering your home is prioritizing your life. What do you want to do with your time? What are you passionate about? What are the healthy habits you want to adopt? What habits do you want to lose?

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself. We keep thinking that when we finish a certain task or buy a certain thing that we’ll finally be happy. That also includes thinking that when I have a decluttered house I’ll be happy.

The thing is that we do feel happy, but that feeling won’t last. We’ll always want to do more, to get to the next level, to conquer the next challenge. But we have to accept that happiness isn’t only about achieving goal after goal. We need to learn to appreciate the small things and to make choices that work for us.

I’m not a minimalist, I’m not an all-together person, far from it. But as long as you keep trying to grow and be a better, more present person, then I think you’ll be happy in your own personal way.

What kind of changes would you make to your life if you could? If nothing could stop you?

Stop saying you’ll do them someday and do them now.

Here’s a sketch.

Little_Girl

The Sardine