i’ve been in this uncomfortable mental headspace now for months. and i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t struggling. i’ve written extensively about the cost of me quitting my job earlier this year – i’ve struggled with purpose. with direction. i’ve had so much time to question my life, my future, my value. but as much as i’ve struggled, i’ve still had a few lifelines. i’ve had soccer, which means that i’ve had some structure. i’ve had my partner, which means i’ve had stability. i’ve had my family, which means i’ve had some support. and i’ve had some presentations, which means i’ve had some mental stimulation. but now, the school year is coming to an end – gigs are no longer. soccer has concluded. and a few confronting situations have arisen in other areas of my life. and i find myself struggling to stay afloat.

they say hope is a lifeline, but i think hope is a silent killer. see, i’ve been holding onto hope most of my life. hope that my dreams would be actualised. hope that if i just focused on myself, did my thing - and did it well - that things would fall into place. hope that if i continued to give, my value would be recognised. hope that if i focused on strengthening my relationships, others would want to learn how. hope that if i led by example, it might just be enough to inspire others. but i find myself feeling hopeless – i find myself feeling destroyed by hope.

i sought an agent this year to help me break into w-league. i had nothing to lose. and after arguably my most dominant season yet, this dream has yet to come to fruition. a hope that continues to dwindle each day that passes. i’ve put my life on hold for the past few months – i’ve delayed planning holidays, delayed getting a job, delayed attending events, delayed living in the hope of what if. so where does that leave me now? it leaves me resenting the sport that i love and the politics that go along with it. it leaves me needing to find a job in an industry i’m not sure i’m passionate about anymore. and it leaves me continuing to fight for my value. because status and names get rewarded – without them, you’re swimming upstream trying to fight for it. how can you be as good as you claim, if you can’t actualise your dreams? a dream so many others have. although i acknowledge this is my perception, the situations in my life continue to reinforce these feelings.

it seems stupid to place so much weight on one goal – a goal i know i will never be in control of. but when society rewards those who make it, it’s hard to overlook its potential impact. and it’s even harder not to compare. to compare yourself to others who have made it, to others who have been afforded opportunities, or to others who are treated differently because of who they are rather than what they offer.

bitterness and resentment currently consume me. and i acknowledge the unhealthy nature of these emotions. but i also acknowledge my limitations in being able to overcome these mental battles. my reality is tainted by these struggles. every rejection serves as validation to the question, what’s the point?

lurking beyond these feelings about my own life are realities i refuse to confront. realities i have distracted myself from feeling, realities we all distract ourselves from feeling - the inevitability of death. and the inevitability of death of those dearest to us. recent events have catalysed this mental confrontation, but the emotions have not followed. because death has, and potentially always will be, something i struggle to both grasp and accept. it’s the reason i became vegetarian last year – because i could not accept the thought of killing an animal for me to eat. an animal with a family; with thoughts, and feelings. (this is not my attempt at converting others, more so an explanation for my decision). i find myself not willing to go there – not willing to comprehend the inevitable future of a life without members of my family. and i’m not sure going there really changes anything – i think about movie / tv characters you know are going to die. but i find nothing can prepare you for the eventual passing of their character – it’s still just as heartbreaking as it would have been without that foresight.

so where to from here? i don’t really know. but i do know spending time alone, spending time to feel what i need to feel, to write what i need to write, is a good place to start. i also think that being more hope-less is another place to start. hope-less in the sense of hoping less and accepting more.

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i talk a lot about warning signs, but often in relation to people that you see regularly, that you talk to regularly. is it still possible to detect warning signs with people you don’t see often? or you don’t talk to often? i believe the answer is yes. and i think discussing these warning signs is perhaps more pertinent to the world we now live – a world where we’re constantly accessible, but less connected. a world where missing the signs is easy – it’s no longer about detecting physical or behavioural changes; how can you when you don’t see them? what then, are you supposed to look out for?

when someone isolates themselves, that’s usually a pretty good indicator that they’re going through something. what does this look like to someone who you only converse with via technology? it looks like avoidance – they might avoid catching up, avoid questions pertaining to how they are, or just avoid replying. we’ve come to accept that people don’t need to reply straight away, or within a day, or even a week, or even at all, but how do you know this isn’t an indirect sign that they aren’t okay? an indirect cry for help? rarely will people explicitly say that they’re not okay, but they’ll give you signs with their behaviour.

as i’ve formerly mentioned in other posts, we put so much emphasis on individuals talking about their problems, but i think we should be equipping individuals with the skills to detect these signs in others. we need to learn to emotionally calibrate ourselves to others. to tune in to their behaviour and what their behaviour might be communicating. would it help if someone explicitly stated they weren’t okay? absolutely! but sometimes people have communicated this, and nothing much has changed. when behaviour isn’t reinforced, it’s punished. and this means it’s less likely to occur in the future. so individuals will try something else, anything else, to garner the attention of those around them.

my suggestion then would be to look at their past behaviour – is this a pattern of theirs? are they known for not replying? or have they drastically changed their technological habits? removing themselves from social media is another form of cyber isolation. the worst part is, we hardly notice when someone is no longer active because we’re constantly inundated with so much other shit, we fail to notice when one of our peers is no longer active.

i get it – everyone has their own stuff going on. but i also know we make excuses for not checking in with others – it’s too hard, too much effort, they haven’t replied to us etc. but i challenge you to put this aside and look at their signs. what does their support network look like? are they in a stable job? a stable relationship? are they exercising? do they have other friends they’re leaning on? any time an individual loses one of their core components to living a fulfilling life, it puts strain on the other areas in their life. people need other people – it's a fact. they also need purpose. and they need to feel valued. without them, individuals might question what the point of living is.

as far as emotional warning signs, sadness isn’t the only emotion people experience when they’re struggling. anger, apathy, and numbness are also concerning feelings (especially when these become the dominant feelings someone is experiencing). when people lack core components of their life, small things become big things. they become big because often these individuals don’t have much else in their life to distract them, to fulfill them. so, what happens? they become consumed by trivial disturbances, so much so that it potentially ruins relationships. an individual’s inability to let something go can sometimes be an indicator that things are out of balance in their life – that there are needs that aren’t being met. so instead of letting go, they hold tighter onto the one thing that gives them some form of temporary purpose, some form of temporary distraction. anger can do that.

so the next time someone doesn’t reply to you, or doesn’t answer your question, or changes their technological behaviour, don’t just brush it off – check in. keep asking them if they’re okay and ask them if there’s a reason they’re avoiding your questions. when people aren’t okay, they push away the thing they need most: people. it isn’t personal, but they do it to reflect what they feel inside – that they’re alone. that they’re hurting. isolating themselves further is like a cruel addiction; it fuels this pain. but it’s a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break. it takes emotionally calibrated individuals to break these barriers. can you be one of these people to someone else?

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we often perceive anger as being a negative emotion or an undesirable attribute, but what if anger is actually what defines us?

in one of the school of life books that i read last year was a question that the author posed as being a necessity for getting to know who someone really is - who are you when you're mad? albeit a fantastic question, i take this question one step further - what makes you mad?

we attribute anger and madness as being the worst parts of ourselves, but what if they're our gateway into ourselves? i believe anger fuels us. it motivates us. it highlights what we deem to be important, it shows us what we value.

over the past few years there have been a few situations that have infuriated me, many of which have been associated with money. but it's not the money that lies at the root of the anger; it's fairness. as complex as humans may be, there are a few things that aren't so complex about us - like our need for fairness. or our need to feel valued.

in a world where comparison is readily accessible and often unavoidable, learning of others' treatment can often be a disservice. humans opt for the path of the least resistance. so when someone has to continually fight for their worth, for their value, i can guarantee their fight won't last long.

because although anger is a fuel to catalyse change, there's only so much fuel you can put on a fire before that person realises the fire will never be self-sufficient; that their value will never be actualised.

so the next time you're angry, don't suppress your anger. become curious. determine the root cause of the anger and use that as motivation to either change the situation, or prevent that situation from occuring with others. become the person you wish you had. and the next time you see that someone's angry? listen to their anger - listen beyond the words. listen to the values they're communicating. listen to the root of the problem. only then can you truly rectify the problem.

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