Five Things That Are Making You Unhappy

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Nothing sends us fruity like trying to settle into a daily routine after returning from a vacation. After escaping from reality for a while you might come back and notice that the things you once blindly accepted start to seem a little bizarre and the values that motivated you have change. Or maybe some of you will come back and cry, simply because your suntan is fading, solariums are banned and you’re still shallow A.F. Having just returned from a short vacation I’m feeling uncharacteristically zen and wondering why so many people are so habitually unhappy? Why am I paying $400 for a juice cleanse? Why do I care who J.Lo is dating? Why do I have to wear shoes? Holidays can’t last forever but they are a good reminder of the things we do almost instinctively to suck out the enjoyment of the other 49 weeks of the year. Here’s my quick pick of serial happiness threats: please be alert, not alarmed.

1. Caring more about fashion than friendship.
Throw out your insecurities: I’ve never once judged my friend for a repeat outfit or rocking a bit of 2008 wardrobe vintage. If I ever fall in with people who are vain enough banish me for not being in new season Alice McCall then push me in front of a bus call me Regina George. Not wanting to go out with the girls because you’re embarrassed about your out of date wardrobe means you either need to rethink your priorities or your friends.

2. Letting people that don’t care about you control your happiness.
Six words: He’s just not that into you. He may be nice as pie when you see him but if that is only ever on his schedule, if either of you are drunk or you’re both naked then chances are you’re not the Bey to his Jay-Z. It’s disappointing if your affections aren’t returned, even more confusing when they try to keep you on standby. But instead of trying to play the player move on. These hoes ain’t loyal? Why the eff would we be when you can’t even write back to a text message in a timely fashion.

3. Complicating the uncomplicated.
If you don’t like where you live, move. If you don’t like where you work, find a new job. If you don’t like who you’re dating then break up. Don’t all stand up and heckle me screaming “It’s not that easy!”, because often it is. In a modern, affluent society we are lucky enough to actually have choice and control over these things. You can always make more money but you can’t make more time. Live life simply by prioritising your happiness and quality of life over BS problems like housemates that steal your food or corporations that suck joy out of you for 50+ hours per week. You’re not a turtle: move out and quit your job. You could probably use a holiday.

4. Comparing yourself to others.
Comparison is the thief of joy. I was happy as Larry playing Uno with my imaginary friend until Jo Bloggs next door throws in a wild card with his new Tamagotchi. Suddenly all of my unembittered joy turned into sadness and longing because an imaginary Tamagotchi with imaginary digital poos just wouldn’t cut it. As we get older we get better and better breeding inadequacy and self-doubt. Treasuring items is not a crime but when obsessing about what you don’t have steals enjoyment away from what you do have and that’s where the problem lies. Rest assured, kids across the world with no clue of what they are missing are still screaming with delight and hitting each other with sticks like the good old days.

5. Wanting more stuff than you need.
The desire to accumulate possessions is strong but for most of us sitting on a big pile of shiny junk doesn’t make you feel like queen magpie. Vast piles of pointless, obsolete and out of season but “too good to throw away items” start to clog your living space like cholesterol in arteries. Accumulating lots of unnecessary stuff is not just bad for the environment but it will also mess up your Feng Shui and take away the peace and sanctity of you home. Like a questionable boyfriend, if in doubt, chuck it out. Re-gift it, recycle it or sell it and move on. You don’t need that useless crap in your life.

Running around shoeless in the sunshine maybe is one of the simplest joys there is, along with sharing good food and good company. The key is simplicity and enjoying what you have instead of pining for what you don’t have. You don’t need to take a holiday to escape from negativity, squash it at first sight like ants in your kitchen. Don’t covet thy neighbour’s wife, no use crying over spilt milk and mo’ money, mo’ problems, am I right?

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Love Maths: Equations and Probabilities

It’s another girl. The timing is wrong. He’s just too busy with work; he’s been abducted by aliens or more likely than not he’s been recruited to the secret service and has had to cut ties with me for my own safety. Whatever the reason, it couldn’t have been my fault. If my calculations were correct we should’ve been holi-dating in Thailand by now and posting obnoxious couple selfies. Instead, the red carpet has been pulled out from under me and I’m left red-faced and licking my wounds after making a public spectacle of myself.  Someone must have fed me corrupted data.  How did this all go so horribly wrong? Holy shit Neo, there’s a glitch in the Matrix.

After falling flat on your face in front of a bemused crowd of onlookers, it can be hard to regain composure. In trying to make sense of our stumbles, we tend to blame everything under the sun except ourselves and get very hung up on the idea of closure. As if falling ass-over-tit for someone who doesn’t want you back isn’t embarrassing enough, people then want to pinpoint the exact moment things went astray. When people tell you not to worry because there’s plenty more fish it’s typically not very comforting. Oh wow really, what sea? What fish? Okay, there’s like 2 billion fish out there but they are probably all weird looking, undersized, bottom feeders. No thanks.  I want a Marlin, not a tin of tuna. I thought I’d hooked a big fish, if only I knew what went wrong. That would change everything, wouldn’t it?

The word itself – closure – indicates some kind of finality, as if knowing what the turning point was will make you feel instantly better and the whole saga will magically fade away into a distant memory. Keep dreaming. Of course it’s not that easy: since when could you blame one straw for paralysing a camel when there’s a whole bale underneath it? It’s never as simple or logical as “rise over run,” so analyse as long as you want but you are more likely to catch a unicorn then the mythical closure beast. Relationships don’t follow a logical, linear progression; the best you can hope for is to find some kind of trend in the chaos so you can manipulate future equations. Jules + Jerk Face = Sad Jules. Subtract the boy, carry the Jules, + gal pals x brunch = awesomeness2.

When you finally accept that you probably won’t ever be able to solve ‘x’ to uncover the exact reason for the relationship failure then you can start looking forward. Perhaps you forgot to carry the two, divide by 36 and move the decimal point; maybe you just weren’t his cup of tea and maybe he likes coffee. It doesn’t matter, post a passive aggressive quote on Instagram and move on. In fact, screw algebra. Thank you, high school maths teachers, for your years of hard work, but I don’t need a graphics calculator to tell me that love doesn’t bear resemblance to a text-book slope. It’s full of curves – positive and negative – and is generally much more of a white-knuckle roller coaster than a bell-shape or an exponential.

Don’t get so hung up on finding a logical answer for the one that got away. It’s nothing more than a necessary dot to your data set. So you put together a forecast based on an algorithm built with situational data and this time your prediction wasn’t even in the ball-park. You got it wrong… But that’s life. You’re not the first person to put all your eggs in one basket before elegantly face-planting right into them, crushing them to smithereens.  Wipe the yolk off your face, honey, and move on, because if you want to bake a cake you’re going to need to break some eggs and what’s that saying again? Oh yeah: “There are plenty more fish in the sea”…but how many exactly!? “Plenty more”’ isn’t a very compelling number– plenty more than what? Plenty more than none or plenty more than a New York City fish market?! Let’s crunch numbers.

By the time you’re in your early-to-mid twenties, it’s likely you’ve already caught a few fish. The newest guy/girl is the second, third – or in my case, 47th – love of your life. For the sake of the argument lets presume you’ve been casting lines into the dating pool for six years approximately. Now in that time you’ve met probably two life-changing loves, which averages out to one every three years (or every three months, if like me you fall in love like it’s going out of fashion). Therefore, conservatively, in a lifetime of dating that could be upto 25 people who could potentially turn your life into the blissful day-dream that is love. [Rough workings: 75 adult years/ 3 year love spells= 25 eligible candidates out there! Yiew!] Now, don’t give me crap about diminishing dating pools and declining probabilities, that’s not the point. I’m not a mathematician I am just a hopeless romantic trying to make an argument. So buck up, Chum, there actually are plenty more fish in the sea. Just keep on catching them and throwing them back until you find the one that’s right for you. And if nothing else, be comforted and a little grossed out by the fact that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among the elderly… So you’ve got plenty more years of love to look forward to.

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Jules x

iLove you, iLove you not…. iDunno

Relationships and technology – two areas of my life where, despite all my best intentions, I have taken a few hits. I’ve probably spent roughly as much time in JB HI-FI processing warrantee claims as I’ve spent trying to sew back together my heart and my dignity. In a complex world where even smartphones have an opinion of their own, it can be very hard to back your own judgement. It’s hard to know whether to hold ‘em or fold ‘em, when everyone keeps promising the next big thing is right around the corner. Should I buy the iPhone I’ve been dreaming of for the past six months or do I wait and see what the next model will be like? What if I wait another two months only to find the next model is basically no different and $200 more expensive? I’m at a loss. So I ask my friends what they think I should do and they tell me to forget iPhones and go get a Samsung. The whole experience is utterly bewildering and I would rather give up and go live on an island. For me, dating is pretty much the same story.

What if we are so busy looking far off into the distance for the next innovation that we forget what’s really most important? Unperturbed by my past technological breakdowns I am still entirely optimistic that there is a model out there for me. I wonder though – is the whizz-bang HD, 3D, intuitive, line-around-the-block latest-release really what I’m looking for? Maybe what I actually want is someone solid; someone strong; someone who can handle a fall; can communicate with me, doesn’t complicate things unnecessarily and won’t start malfunctioning if I drop him in the kitchen sink. Hang on, wait — now I’m not sure if I’m talking about a man or a Nokia.  I think back to the days when the only important feature in a phone was Snake 2 and wish dating could be as simple.

Funnily enough, I’m an android user – I don’t know what that says about me as a person. Maybe I’m pragmatic and I want functionality over flash. You might just think it means I’m stingy; there could be some truth to that too. But if you want to debate the value of an iPhone vs a Samsung in rational terms, there is really no justification for the price discrepancy between the two, just like how Nike sportswear is made of the same stuff as New Balance but twice the price (hint as to where I buy my gym gear).  I don’t really buy into brands and I really don’t buy into iPhones. I don’t like the exclusive chargers, I don’t like the glass screen that crack if you sneeze on them and I don’t like the obligatory software. They are very pretty though.

What implications does this have for my dating life? Maybe my choice of android over iOS is because over my overwhelming fear of having my heart chewed up and spat out by iTunes. I’m scared of putting everything I care about into one lousy device that is not backed up properly. Something that has the propensity to heartlessly delete my entire existence in one foul swoop. Sounds a lot like a guy, right? Maybe that’s a reflection of my love life. Maybe I hold back all of my important data because I don’t want to leave my valuable content at the mercy of some heartless and unreliable male computer program.

So I’ve always thought Samsung is the safe bet, the smart bet, the reliable choice. I also like what they stand for – they are courageous, they are smart and best of all they are (or were) the underdog. Investing in the less obvious choice can really pay off. For instance I always loved people that were ugly ducklings, they are always the best value. It could be the fat kid, the guy with bad teeth, the girl with the awful hair. Being socially less desirable in your youth can force you to equip yourself with tools much stronger than your appearance. These are the kids who are funnier, smarter and stronger than the rest because they had to force their way up the school yard ranks, they couldn’t just rely on good looks.  Given those ducks five years though and their metabolisms have sped up, the braces are off and they’ve got an army of hair stylists. Bubye ugly duckling, hello beautiful swan and jealous gasps from past skeptics: “Holy shit, you got hotttttt!”

I always try to date swans. They’re more humble, they’ve got personality and they are bloody beautiful people. Take it from me, I was a fat kid and that’s why I’ve developed humour. The only looks-based competition I was winning was second prize in the Monopoly beauty pageant (Collect $10, thank you very much) so I needed to get people’s attention some other way. I guess I’ve always considered Android to be the ugly duckling and that resonates with me. Apart from the hours spent at work or sleeping, phones and relationships are probably my biggest time commitment. So I’ve always wanted to share that time with someone who understands me, whether that’s a person or an operating system.  Reflectively I’m probably just bitter about because the iPhone was born hot and popular but like Android I feel I’ve had to earn my stripes.

Where are we at? I think I’m trying to date an Android-based water fowl, so maybe it’s no surprise that I haven’t had much luck thus far. Unfortunately in my attempted to avoid the dreaded i-phenomenon I’ve actually had a pretty average run with both phones and men. Ironically, I can’t seem to make a phone or a relationship last for longer than a year. The lesson there might be that I really should take better care of my phones and my boyfriends. Or perhaps I should take a chance on the iWagon and see if I’m swept off my feet like the rest of the fanatics. Up until now I’ve been going through the same cycle over and over again and hoping for a different result. We all know that’s the definition of insanity. Like my phones, I tend to expect a lot out of my romances and they tend always end up over-heating and burning out way too soon. Until I work out what’s best for me I’m not committing to another contract.

Let’s be alone together

Somebody asked me the other day if I was lonely and I nearly fell off my chair.  I have not been lonely since I was a soppy, 14-year-old emo trying to figure out my place in the world, back when the feeling of misunderstanding felt terminal and heavy eye-liner was the only accessible medication. Back to the present day, though, am I alone? Yes.  Am I lonely? Never.  What a pointless waste of time. The absurd accusation that a person would be lonely because they don’t have a partner is about as robust as the assumption that all gay guys are “faaaaaaaabulous” and all pretty girls are dumb. Certainly, there will be instances of each but if you think it’s a blanket rule then you need to get out more.

To the young and carefree loneliness can be a bit like mould: if you’re complacent it can creep in and before you know it you’re sprouting mushrooms out of your shower grout. Much like the hygiene issues in your bathroom, you can’t trust other people to come along and clean up your mess. It’s you’re responsibility now and (I sincerely hope) your mum’s not going to come around save you. Roll up your sleeves, grab the bleach and take care of it like an adult, because – like cleaning the bathroom – the more regularly address it the easier it is to manage.

In a world where we are constantly attached to smart phones it can be easy to dilute friendships down to reciprocal post-liking or regular photo comments. Shout out to my Instagram bffs from around the globe with whom I share a magical double-tapping, girl-crushing, like-for-like commitment. I am here for you babe, and if you’re really struggling with that selfie I promise to like it across all three of my Instagram accounts – until death do us part. That being said it’s common in this day and age to let too many friends drift away from the physical world and get sucked into the digital vortex. Because of this, loneliness can catch you by surprise: while everyone else is driven mad by your loud, bragging message notification tone, you fail to realise the real-life organic relationships you once had are stale or rotting. Sure, I get a kick from pulling in mad stats on my latest highly filtered, artistic, over-exposed masterpiece (‘WOOHOO 100 likes…. Don’t touch me Bitch, I’m famous’) but that doesn’t take away my need for physical contact. I want to see your facial expression, read your body language – even smell your BO if I must. Nothing will ever replace the warmth of a whole-hearted laugh or the tingle of a rib-squishing hug.  Thinking that social media ‘connectedness’ can cure isolation is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound – it’s just not going to stick.

If you’re a capable young adult the difference between being lonely and being alone is choice. I chose to be alone but nobody wakes up in the morning and chooses to be lonely. If I wanted a relationship I’m sure I could find one. There’s a plethora of delightful gents out there who might just be up for the challenge (Wanted: tall, dark and handsome… or tall, blonde and handsome… Or tall and handsome… Ok, ok. Just handsome will do).  I chose to be alone because at this stage there isn’t an offer on the table that would justify rearranging my over-flowing calendar of commitments. With work, study, fitness, friendship, writing and my demanding hair-washing routine I am not willing to compromise my lifestyle for the sake of having someone to constantly harass me via text. So until the male cast of Vampire Diaries comes knocking down my door I’m more than happy to just keep doing my thing.

Loneliness happens when you stop proactively filling up your life with awesome things and waste your time moping that the man or woman of your dreams hasn’t tracked you down and put a ring on it yet. God knows why. Maybe they are too busy out living their own exciting, fulfilling lives to waste time trawling through Tinder profiles, Mutual Friends and Instagram galleries chasing you. The reality is you’re not going to get swept of your feet if you spend the majority of your time alone on the couch. I’m not saying you should sign up for insincere activities in the hopes of meeting someone, because that probably won’t work either. Trust me; a happy person can smell desperation like a shark can smell blood in the water. Only they won’t be creeping up on you like Jaws, they will be running for the hills in case you’re contagious. There is nothing less attractive than a stage-five clinger who has no real life, friends or interests of their own. You don’t want to be that guy and you definitely don’t want to be with that guy so always carry salt.

Finding someone won’t necessarily cure your loneliness anyway.  Personally, I’m more likely to feel alone when I’m in a relationship that’s constantly letting me down than when I am in a committed relationship with myself.  I know what I like, I manage my own expectations, I never have to fight over what movie to watch, I don’t have to shave my legs every day and I’m free to be as ugly as I like without judgement.  If all of that is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “if you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.’  If you can accept your flaws and embrace your strengths you can do away with the need for the continual reinforcement sought in a relationship. Put down the i-solation-Phone and make an ongoing commitment to your friendships and making life as full and rewarding as possible. You don’t need to settle for Joe-Blow, or worse, become boring old barnacle joy-riding on someone else’s life. Concentrate on yourself and it won’t matter if you have someone or not because you will be kicking life’s butt regardless.

Bottom line: You never have to be lonely if you can be comfortable being alone.

(Image courtesy of usamedeniz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Travelholics Anonymous: When it’s Not OK to Vacay

By now we have all been exposed to the Travel Bug, a common and serious parasite that can take over your life and infest your every waking thought. Many embrace the relationship as symbiotic – they nourish the travel bug which in turn nourishes them. We all know others, though, who have taken this way too far, to the point that their normal life is starved of all joy between overseas jaunts. When it gets to the point they won’t even have a $12 dinner with their friends at your local dumpling house for fear of blowing the budget, they’ve gone too far beyond passionate. More than that, the habit of sitting at home, avoiding friends for fear of frivolous expenditure, just makes you feel like they hate you as much as they hate their own dreary life. What makes it worse is that all the while they’re completely oblivious to their social leprosy, manically trawling for sale fares online like Gollum searching for ‘Precious.’

These friends, from an outsiders perspective start to appear like drug addicts – willing to lie, cheat and steal just to scrape enough money together for the next exotic hit; lurking in dark alleys and robbing little old ladies because just to fund the next plane ride. Travelling has taken to the brink, where bare essentials are being sacrificed just to fuel the habit… after all, toothpaste is just a marketing ploy, right?  We go weeks without seeing them, having barricaded themselves inside because these vagabonds can’t bear to be seen scuttling around in their travel junky outfits: Three inches of regrowth, moth-bitten yoga pants and bleach-stained singlets. Surely when you get to the point you’re working three jobs and seriously considering selling your little brother into slavery you need to ask yourself a question: “what am I running away from?” If your life is so tedious and mundane maybe you need to look a little bit closer to home to solve the problem.

Many of us are clearly driven overseas by the unavoidable fact that it’s cheaper to spend a week in Bali than a weekend in Queensland but really – how necessary is it to run for the hills at every single opportunity? Is the motivation for travel about broadening your mind or simply to bolster your Instagram gallery? By your seventh trip to Bali, I’m sure you have squeezed out just about as much culture as you can get. Perhaps you just needed to pop back for a few more Bintang singlets, a vodka bucket and a henna tattoo- who am I to judge?

It’s often one of those activities thrown out there during ‘icebreaker’ games when some soul-less facilitator tries to embarrass you all by making you share interesting and quirky facts about yourselves (Internally I’m wondering “ Holy crap, is eating a hobby?! Does watching boxed sets count?!… Should I be embarrassed that Breaking Bad is my main joy in life?”).

You start clutching at straws so no-one realises you’re as dull as a pile of pine bark: “Travel! That’s my hobby. I live to travel!” But in reality, a hobby requires dedication, practice and ongoing commitment.  The only commitment travel-maniacs have is the commitment to poor living standards and a bad work-life balance, and to the avoidance of real life goals. The end result is a fat little hamster on a wheel, working as hard as they can but getting nowhere. In the meantime, the hamsters around them start climbing the corporate ladder, buying nice things and gradually getting their shit together.

It’s great to have something to look forward to. I encourage all of you to travel, see the world, open your mind and put on five kilos trying every flavour of gelato ever invented ( because on holidays it is law that you are allowed ice cream every day). I’m just saying that there are more economical ways to enjoy your life every day and not just for four weeks a year, and therein lies the key. The fear of a boring life is real for every single one of us, but travel is the symptom – not the cure. Transplant the determination and dedication from travel plans into self-improvement and the seek contentment from Monday to Friday, not in spite of it.

We should all be looking to Bilbo Baggins for inspiration instead of Gollum. Bilbo built such a pleasant life that he was vehemently opposed to leaving it; even when he did he spent much of his time dreaming of his nice warm burrow and the joys of his everyday life.  Admittedly, our holidays don’t usually involve dragons or wizards (although I am always on the lookout for large spiders and thieves), but the point is that he built a nest; a safe-place; a life that he treasured and in which he surrounded himself with friends and family. He took pleasure in the simple things like reading good books and eating multiple breakfasts (a man after my own heart). Travel changed him, made him a better Hobbit and opened-up his eyes – no doubt about it. But Bilbo did not believe he was defined by his adventures and was always driven to return to his own life. That said, they obviously wouldn’t have made a trilogy about Bilbo sitting on his bum in a Shire. Coming soon, The Hobbit: – An Unexpected Haemorrhoid….

Not by any means am I saying that we should all be Hobbits and relish solely in the comfort of our homes until the age of 50, but I do think we could take a lesson in enjoying the simple pleasures in life such as good food, good drink and good people. Indeed the alarming amount of hair that grows on my feet could be the source of my affinity with these little fellows, but when all is said and done, Bilbo had it right. Deep down we are all waiting for Gandalf to knock on our door and drag us on a life changing adventure through Middle Earth, but until then why don’t we divert a little bit of that travel passion into creating a sanctuary in our everyday lives? The year should never be reduced to a 40hr+ weekly struggle to scrimp, save and escape a hum-drum hell, especially when that hell is most often one we have created for ourselves.

And maybe if you didn’t deprive yourself so much you could get by on the small pleasures in life, like buying $130 gym tights without having to sell a kidney to make up the deficit.

Thanks for reading, if you love my posts please subscribe to email notifications via the link in the menu icon above. Jules x