Things I’ve Noticed AFTER Turning 30

Hi, there. You must be close to turning 30 or are already over the threshold if you’ve stumbled across this. Here, you’ll want this butt donut and there’s some refreshments on the table over there if you find yourself getting thirsty. Don’t worry, they’re all easy to digest and sugar-free.

Hm… you’re not looking too sure. It must be your first time. Nuh-uh-uh-UH! No-o-o you don’t! Don’t try and weasel your way out of using that donut. It’ll come in handy, trust me. Here! Take this and read up on what your 30s have to offer before I get started on more things I’ve realized.

What’s up, doc?

Forget things happening or coming in 3s. Let’s be real — that hasn’t happened in a hot New York minute and our bodies don’t bend that way anymore. It feels like mine has gone on strike and I’m having to go see a doctor more often than I used to. Before ya’ll get all high and mighty about getting out and exercising, I KNOW. I just choose to ignore it. I have zero interest.

Truth.

ANYWAY. Ahem.

Seriously, as we get older, seeing an OBGYN and whoever it is that tickles the insides of glory holes becomes a must. Our teeth and skin start to take a dive, showing spots, weird dents, crooked wrinkles, bleeding at odd times, or just ashy AF no matter how much lotion we lather on. I’ve become increasingly aware and yet, am still in denial over the fact that I’ll have to talk to my local Smash-a-Boob about cancer screenings some time soon.

Totally disregarding the aforementioned ashinasty, any itch has me checking for rashes and bumps. Any slight ache of the throat has me hoping I haven’t caught the ‘VID. Any excess hair in my brush has me praying it’s just stress and not something more. Farts got me clenching my butt harder than usual, I’m seriously considering the benefits of therapeutic shoes, and my increasing disgust with bodily fluids has me washing clothes way more often than my nasty-ass teenage self could ever understand.

…ew. I can practically hear my mom telling me “I told you so! You didn’t wanna listen to me, didja?”

Sigh… and don’t get me started on how much money I’ve thrown at the dentist since my last blog post, but I’m just going to blame genetics on that one. Also, let’s tack on some recent news that I’ve received from my company: the mandatory health screening is due in two weeks. Doctors can see just about anything what’s not right with us through blood. Say a chant with me, charge them crystals, and light some herbs to prevent any voodoo on my read-out plz k thx.

Who am I? What am I?

And for some reason, having numerous health check-ups = grandma. Like, ¿que? ¿Cómo se dice BOOL-SHYEET? If you’ve noticed people treating you differently because you’ve added on a year, you’re not alone.

Not being “young” anymore has thrown me for a loop. 30 now has somehow brought back The Twilight Zone (the BW version, amiright?) and I feel myself being pulled two ways: one is to be the responsible adult and fit the stereotype of success, and the other is still trying to convince me I can walk in a short skirt and toothpick stilettoes without eating the pavement.

I mean, who isn’t coasting through life right now?

I’ve entered my 30s uncomfortably unprepared. The amount of things I just don’t know is staggering. There’s suddenly this pressure to read more, be woke, eat conspiracy theories for breakfast, and walk a political tightrope.

Barking Mad and Mentally Mental

These are my special guests: Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity and Guilt. Say hello, you freeloaders. If ya’ll in the audience know a good lawyer, I’d like a referral because these dudes owe me back rent.

I’m still baffled by the fact that life follows the movies. Y’know, the same opening scene where the main character is spread over a psychiatrist’s sofa, spilling all their worries? That one. I’ve entered that and it seems to be helping (!!). Yes, that’s right! I’ve taken a step in the right direction and am getting professional guidance on how to manage the unwelcome guests that have been squatting unhindered since forever. Their numbers have increased as I’ve gotten older.

But why is it with age, we become more self-aware? That means we’re noticing intrusive thoughts, poor decision-making, burnout, and whatever else this generation has going for it. Holding onto festering ideas and stress, morphing it into something normal, is not healthy.

Let me ask you, would you keep moldy fruit? You wouldn’t. You’d throw it out, beat back the mold stain, smack the flies with a newspaper (are those even a thing anymore?) and start fresh, right? I know that and you know that, and yet, some of us keep repeating the habit without a second thought.

Eventually, with the therapist’s help, I’ll be able to reform my habits and start saving money. If you’re struggling too, I gently suggest seeking third-party help, as they’re removed from your situation, triggers, and stresses, and can provide an objective eye.

Not understanding the young people

Unfortunately, those triggers can take any form and mine seem to be everywhere. One of them is social media with its intense saturation of young women flaunting their goods for easy likes. Seriously, we’re missing out on a profitable business. We’d have way more millionaires in the world if those likes were currency! On the downside, it really puts Insecurity at risk of setting Anxiety off.

The trends and habits of today’s youth are starting to baffle me. What is so appealing about smooth-skinned hot thangs swishing their hips to some random EDM? They all make me feel fat, ugly, and old. I’ve seen 2D characters with more dimension than them!

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Probably. More and more though, there’s a disconnect. I’m finding myself having generational shock. Y’know, like culture shock, but… between me and them.

Does Hobby Lobby have hobbies for sale?

And as we get older, many of us will fall into two camps: being super unmotivated or being intensely genki (Japanese for energetic, healthy). The genki folks undergo a transformation as they take on new challenges, start eating healthier, and overall becoming the superstars we all secretly envy.

Our views of success get distorted, and with that, comes apathy; apathy towards everything that once defined us. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you to hold onto ungratifying pastimes. If you’ve stopped for valid reasons or absolutely need to change for your health, that’s fine. What I’m trying to say is that it’s sad when we stop doing what we love; when we sever that important emotional connection.

We end up becoming unmotivated. And what do we say to that?!

If this line ain’t a motto for a lot of people, I don’t know what is.

By the way, if having a mountain of unfinished projects stacked up around the house applies to you, raise your hand. Mine’ve been there for months. You might as well call me an odds and ends collector or Miss Money Throw-away ’cause that’s just about what it amounts to. If I take a moment to think about it, the oldest unfinished item I have is from like… around… 2011? TEN YEARS YOU GUYS! Ten years that project has been hopping from the storage bin to boxes to my floor and back to the storage bin.

I’m loathe to admit that I might have picked up the negligence from my dad. Seriously, why can’t those projects do themselves?!

There’s an upside, though. Slowly, I’m reaching back into my youth and picking up old hobbies. Do ya’ll remember boondoggles? Does anyone play with Tamagochis anymore? I would totally love to have my old Lite Brite back, dressed up in one of those gawdy princess costumes with the clickity-clack plastic pumps.

Hee-hee-huu-huu!

Truly though, this is where the panic sets in. Panic that you’re going to kick the bucket before you can get everything set and squared away. Panic about seeing people you haven’t reached out to in years. Panic over not being as organized and upstanding as you’d like. Granted, some people are more well-rounded and stable than you and I and they’ve already got a hefty 401k going, their eyes are on a house at the age of 27, and have several rescues they’ve fostered out.

What is the dream anymore?

It’s an all hands on deck kind of feeling. The deadlines you thought you were ahead of are either moved forward or they shank you when you least expect it. Perhaps you have a kid and you’ve realized you’re in need of self-help books for the eventual mood swings and goth period they’re bound to have.

Best have a lot of skip and reverse cards handy, or at the very least, some good pals you can depend on. There were plenty of times I wish I had them.

Friends

Speaking of friends, we either keep them always and forever or we gain the seasoned ones later in life. That seems to be my case, anyway.

Allow me some sentimentality. Friends are beautiful. They are a kaleidoscope of personalities, likes, and interests that are all, funnily enough, suited to us in some way. Just look at the number of quotes and sayings on friendship! I bet you could wallpaper your house with them all.

As we age, we notice more readily who’s valuable and safe for us to know and have around and… well… who’s not. Our view of people regresses back a couple decades, shedding the multiple lenses we use, and becomes much more straightforward. We literally have lost the patience to get to know someone.

Those friends come in handy too because, let’s be real, we’re all still scared of the dark.

Things I’ve Noticed as I Turn 30

Allow me to guess. You’re here either because you’re about to turn 30 or are already in your 30s, yes? Great! I’m glad to have some company.

Grab a seat and get comfortable!

And so, it begins!

Before you know it, they’re happening. The incidents are small at first — little nuggets scratching at the surface of your awareness, wanting to make themselves known. Then, you’re stepping out of the shower and you’re pelted with a powerfully sudden derp. What am I talking about? Turning 30. Yup. For someone who doesn’t place too much stock on labels, I’ve unknowingly placed one on myself. Oh, the irony!

As it’s my birthday today, let’s talk about it!

In all honesty, I never imagined being at this point. Just as it freaked me out when I turned 16, 18, and 21, I’m unnerved by the fact that I’ve managed to live for 30 years. Even though my responsibilities have increased tenfold from when I was young and I’ve a changed view of the world, I still feel as if I’m a child. It’s certainly an odd sensation. There are some things I’ve started noticing about myself and my life, however.

Dust

It drives me absolutely bonkers. Insane! I’ve mentioned to my mom a couple of times, but I swear to God that the dust here in Japan is made up completely different stuff. My image is of fine, gray layers on top of mantlepieces and dressers — the kind of stuff that would stain a white glove. The dust I barely tolerate resembles lightweight fibers. They float at the barest breath of air.

And no matter how much I clean, how careful I am not to be more of a mess than I already am, I’ll still finding dust bunnies rolling around in the corners. Not to mention that it’ll all stick to the feet of fuzzy furniture if you let it.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Skin Care

This is a gray area. I care a lot more than I did when I was a teenager, but I’m certainly not at the level of some people. I thought my mom was nuts to not only care for her face while in the shower, but she’d spend so much time in the bathroom, layering on product after product. I didn’t understand at all. Heck, washing your face for washing’s sake was a foreign concept to me.

That is… until puberty struck and decided to turn me in an adult. I started washing my face in earnest and having beefs with the oil my T-zone produced on a daily basis. I was even sneaking off into restrooms to dab the excess with toilet seat covers, I was that desperate to keep my face from causing accidents.

Now, I’m washing my face twice a day, using a cheap SPF, hyaluronic conditioner, moisturizing cream, and attacking regularly with my popper tool. Go figure.

Grooming

For as much dedication I show my face (what little there is to start with), I kind of wish I showed the same amount to the rest of my body. It seems running wild is a habit I’ll never break.

I remember when I was around 10 years old when I noticed carpeting on my legs. Yikes. Because I wanted to fit in, I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me start shaving. That was a mistake, because now, I’m stuck in the stupid mindset that, if I want to look good, neat, and tidy, I have to shave.

Waxing armpits is for the birds, by the way, and I’m not even going to touch the phases I went through in regards to landscaping. Any dude that thinks they can exercise control over your body by telling you to groom according to their standards needs some serious re-education.

Overall, am I dissing shaving? No, it has its uses and many people do prefer to be slick, smooth, and shiny. Is it for me? I have my moments. The current obsession I have now is keeping my upper lip hair free.

Babies and Children

They make me happy. You couldn’t have gotten me to care for one when I was younger. Did I babysit? Sure. For money. Now? Pfft, give me all the babies! I spend my days now enjoying the energy my elementary school children have and watching my nieces and nephews grow up (by the way, did you know that’s what you call your cousin’s children? It’s the best!).

Children are indeed heartwarming. But there’s a flipside.

Being Single

After dating many times, I’ve developed poor post-break up coping habits and trust issues. It only took one more burn for me to swear it all off. In no time at all, all of the apps I had on my phone were wiped of their accounts and uninstalled. Dramatic much? I think not. When you’ve had the same conversations again and again, both in English AND Japanese, the whole idea of dating loses its luster.

I can only tolerate the same pub food for so long. And honestly? My wallet could use a break, too.

That still doesn’t change the fact that I feel lonely a lot. That empty area is glaringly obvious some days and I find myself contemplating reinstalling those stupid dating apps. The population of unmarried middle-aged Japanese men must sense it too, because the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m married, have a boyfriend, or are otherwise engaged in some way, has increased exponentially. Luckily, my close friends, family, and age remind me I have a backbone.

Supplements

Speaking of backbones, do you take care of yours? Yes, I know, there’s a heated debate on whether or not supplements are even needed, but my diet sucks 90% of the time. That’s only one reason I started intermittently choking a handful of pills down in the mornings. Raise your hand if you’ve swallowed a big ass tablet the wrong way!

The biggest reason was because I developed dandruff and was desperate for a cure. Why go to a doctor when I could just follow the advice the internet gave me?

In between changing my shampoo and changing my diet, I bought fish oil, biotin, vitamin D, and multi-vitamins all in an effort to banish the nasty dancing around on my head. Did it all work? I wouldn’t mind being a test subject for a hard yes or no. For now, it all seems to have calmed down. My hair is no longer lanky, my scalp is oiling up again, and whoever was sprinkling salt all over my bedsheets has stopped.

Work Culture

With age, our perceptions of things change. Long gone is the innocence of the world, the simple steps in life; wake up, go to work, make money, come home and sleep. I suppose the overcomplication of adult life could be simplified down to that bare minimum, but we refuse to see things so plainly.

This is where my frustration with the workplace comes into play. Why is it, when we get older, we (unknowingly or not) become embroiled in the politics of it all? I’d gladly take the fun, carefree times at work during my early 20s over the seriousness I’ve seemed to have adopted now. Perhaps it’s my character, but I’ve noticed more and more people telling me I’m too uptight, too focused on doing a good job.

Now, it’s all “You’ve got to be more considerate of others, Ashley,” “You can’t let your mouth run off like that, Ashley,” “You’re gonna find yourself in trouble if you do that, Ashley,” or “What did I tell you? You’ve done it now, Ashley.” OH. MY. GOD. Just tell me what you want done and leave me alone. It’ll be on your desk by Monday morning.

Stress

With work comes stress. We all know it’s a killer. It slaps much differently than when I was bugged out of my mind a couple of years ago. I busted my ass working two jobs while pulling myself through school on so little sleep. Back then, I didn’t even bat an eye. It was my normal.

Now? I can pull an all-nighter and drag on for two weeks after that despite getting ample amounts of sleep. I won’t even mention the muscle aches. I don’t even think my neck and shoulders know what relaxation is. My hair, too, is showing signs of its loss of youth. I cheer whenever the hairbrush pulls a grey hair out.

The Passage of Time

Speaking of youth, did you ever notice how, when you were young, you’d want the day to hurry up and be over with or you’d think that you couldn’t wait to grow up — that growing up meant freedom?

Shyit, can I go back to those days?

While I still want the day to get on with itself, I feel like I never have enough time. I don’t have enough time to leisurely finish my tea in the mornings. I don’t have enough time to plan my lessons at school. I don’t have enough time to enjoy my hobbies (pfft, what are those, even?). I don’t have enough time to simply sit and stare a hole in the wall in an effort to get the world to stop turning for a damn minute.

It’s a weird psychological construct that we’ve developed and keep reconstructing since 4236 BC, Egypt. Are we cursed, as humans, to always be reminded that we aren’t eternal?

I suppose I’d take my human life over a fly’s. That’s way too much pressure.

Baskets

By the way, have you become more organized as you’ve gotten older? Even though my mom tried super hard to instill within my child mind the benefits of being clean and structured, I still turned out a cluttered wreck. It got to the point that my folks would close my bedroom door and only enter if they absolutely had to.

Organization didn’t have a point. I hated it, actually. It made me feel like my home wasn’t homey. This pattern continued all through college, too. When I moved to Japan, things changed… and so did the number of baskets in my apartment.

Baskets are so damn useful. Instead of disarrayed clutter, I can now have organized clutter! It’s brilliant. They come in all shapes and sizes, can be stacked or connected. The options are endless! It’s too bad this basket case can’t be handled in the same fashion.

Remember, if it doesn’t spark joy, dump it!

Decisions

They suck. I’m the sort of person who hates having only A or B. Why am I not allowed to have C or All of the Above? This is the sort of situation I seem to have found myself in as I live out this particular chapter of my life here in Japan. I can feel the blinders starting to dry up and peel off.

“Adult life” is waiting for me and, after having gone back and skimmed an old post on choosing between Japan or America, I suspect I’m having the same exact dilemma. I’ve fallen into the wash-rinse-repeat societal trope — at 30, it’s time to buckle down and say good-bye to youth. It’s time to take up the mantle of duty and be Best Girl. There’s also the ugly trend that says the older you get, the harder it is to find a job.

Can you tell I’m angry and bitter about the whole thing? What makes me feel worse is that I’ve gone and blabbed in the heat of things, thinking, “That’s it. I’m tired of dilly-dallying, the emotions hurt. I’mma just rip it off and move back home. Who cares if I’m ready or not?” My coworkers and family are doing their best to be understanding, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Las Vegas is going to have a hell of a time recovering — should I sit tight and wait? One dear friend did point out that I’m safe, have a stable job, etc. here in Japan. Why would I want to throw that away too soon without checking to see if the back-up chute is still good?

The knot of fear in my stomach hurts.

Fortitude

Overall, turning 30 for me means I’m taking a moment to look back at my youth, give it the consideration it deserves, before turning my eyes towards the wide unknown.

It means looking in the mirror and realizing this new kind of human is me. I must dig in deep into myself and find the fortitude that is unique only to this Ashley. It’s just a bit cluttered right now.

I must also learn that I can’t control everything or have everything the way I want it. The sooner I accept that basic facet of life, the sooner I’ll be out of this frantic cycle of caring and not caring.

Hey! What’ve you been up to?!

The dishes from Christmas dinner need to be put away.

I keep staring out of the curtained window, like I’m waiting for something to happen.

What is it artists use to record their videos?

Do I even want to push my art into the world and jump on that bandwagon?

A composition I threw together from some scribbles that were already on the page. Who knows if it’ll ever make it onto a canvas. (Dec. 2020)

Groan. I still have those Christmas wreaths to get started and finished.

Ah, and I need to start working on something for the company newsletter, too…

Can’t you tell that I’m super distracted? I’ve told my counselor a couple of times that being at home, unfocused, is a dangerous thing. It’s easy for me to slip into that dark corner and think little of myself. Last week was so busy and now I’ve got another two days to slog through. Where’s that teenager at? I need a right proper scoff and eyeroll!

Let’s get to back-pedaling.

No joke, I thought I was in trouble there for the last couple of months. I wanted to disappear, angry with everyone around me for not noticing how much of a mess I was becoming. Work was becoming increasingly busier, I felt incompetent, I held grudges against colleagues… I needed my screen to flash GAME OVER. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why am I not as good as everyone else? Why am I not more liked? If I were just a bit more like everyone else, I’d have more attention.

HURK BLARGH. How petty are those thoughts?! Seriously, I feel disgusted with myself. Combine those insecurities with the fact that my family seemed to be suffering blow after blow, I hit the end of my rope faster than I would’ve liked. I couldn’t, wouldn’t accept that all roads were starting to point me in other directions.

Change is scary. Acceptance is every scarier. I’m learning, though.

I’m learning to accept that I won’t ever be as popular as other artists, that my skills will stay where they’re at until I hunker down and practice. I’m learning to appreciate what I’m capable of doing already and now. I’m learning to love my determination and single-mindedness regarding my work as an ALT.* I’m learning to stop thinking “I’m always alone” and ask for help. I’m learning to be grateful for what Japanese I know.

Be kind and love yourself. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I’m worthy.

I’m valuable.

I’m not insignificant.

My work and my accomplishments in life will speak for themselves.

Just this month, in fact, I was notified by my branch that I was awarded Top Motivational Instructor. It’s the highest honor an ALT can receive in my company for superb work ethic. I’m still trying to process it! I certainly wasn’t expecting it — I even went to one of my bosses and urged him to remove my name from any kind of running. I felt I didn’t do anything this year to deserve recognition in… well… anything.

I hadn’t done any work with my English boards.

I completely scrapped my English newspaper.

I did absolutely nothing for my schools this year, but somehow… my supervisors and bosses recognized and acknowledged something I don’t see within myself.

Some time during this winter vacation I’ve got to make a small speech for the occasion. Who would I even thank?

I’ve thought about dedicating this win to my late Aunt Judy. She was taken from us rather suddenly this year and not from COVID. I feel I’d be more at peace with the whole thing if it had been that — I mean, it’s kinda become the taste in everyone’s mouths. Other than that, I have no clue on what to say. Have you ever written a speech before?

I’ve also seen some success in the wreaths that I make in my spare time. The praise I receive from one of my schools certainly helps keep the motivation going. They’re not hard to make if you’ve got some wire cutters, scissors and a lot of hot glue sticks. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Japan doesn’t have Hobby Lobbies. I’ve included a video from my Facebook page for your viewing pleasure!

2020’s Halloween wreath as featured on my Facebook page, Artleycoul.

Other ways I’ve been attempting to handle my stress and keep my mental health healthy is through baking; specifically brownies. My friend Carla, over at The Geordie Gaijin, seems to really enjoy them. I’m happy my sweets can reach her “cold, bitter English heart” as she more or less puts it.

I’m in a love-hate relationship with breads, too. It’s so incredibly easy to kill the yeast! I never seem to know when to knead the dough enough, so I’ve just kinda given up reading the instructions. I work it all until it comes to a consistency I’m comfortable with and give it all shove into my tiny oven. Which do you enjoy baking, quick breads or yeasty breads? I think my specialty will always be an improved version of my grandma’s banana bread recipe.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A third method has been to write an extended letter to my dad. I made it to 11 pages (they’re small — maybe like B5 size) and stopped writing after December 2nd. I suppose it can be considered to be a really long conversation.

The lovely thing about the whole deal is that it got him in the mood to write me a letter, too. It arrived with my Christmas package! It’s always a pleasure to receive something as special as that from loved ones.

***

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! It’s been a long time since I’ve felt comfortable with airing out my thoughts. I’d like to invite you to join my artful progress by following my Instagram and Facebook page. Both hold a spot on my homepage. Let me know what you think and if there’s anything you’d like to see me try!

What is a hug?

There is a scene from Dreamworks’ The Croods, where Nicolas Cage’s character, Grug, and Emma Stone’s character, Eep, a dysfunctional father-daughter duo, tearfully clasp one another to themselves as the movie’s climax unfolds. They’re not holding each other like an adult would a baby. They’re not carrying the other as one would a tool or vessel. What purpose could gripping another body in such an obviously upset manner serve?

Eep and Grug stand there in that moment, the movie’s music score swelling, on a cliff that’s crumbling around them as the world they know falls to bits. Earth’s crust is cracking, breaking. They’ve got to move! Already, their family is on the other side of the ravine, eagerly awaiting them with worry and terror plainly etched on their faces. It’s a real nail biter!

Secured in her pa’s arms, Eep cuddles up close. “This works good,” she says through her sniffles. “What do you call it?”

In famous dadderly fashion, Grug confesses, “I was thinking about calling it a hug” before throwing in a Dad JokeTM. “Because it rhymes with Grug,” he says as he shrugs sheepishly. “But you can change it if you want.” Eep manages a chuckle and throws her arms around her big, strong Daddo, telling him she loves the idea.

The Croods, a heartwarming film about family and preservation. I recommend it for anyone who’s into a slice of life, family road trip kind of movie.

Man, someone get me some tissues because that scene gets me in the emotions EVERY. TIME! There is a handful of reasons I could think of as to why something that particular wrenches, from the depths of my tender soul, such a deluge of tears and snot.

The Definition of a Hug

Can you imagine a time when hugging, a gesture we are so accustomed to, didn’t have a name… or even happen outside of coupling? A hug in itself, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a tight clasp with the arms; embrace.” How very straightforward and succinct. They suspect its first appearance in the English language was around the 1560s from the Old Norse word hugga, meaning to soothe, console.

Mmkay, so that’s starting to match what we know a hug to be. That’s certainly a lot more informative in regards to the movie I mentioned just a moment ago.

But what is a Hug?

We are beings with a consciousness. We are a veritable mass of muscles mooshed around a boney frame with this knobby, wrinkly blob encased within our skulls. It contains these vague, misty images we know to be memories. It releases hormones that allow us to move, breathe, digest, and rid ourselves of waste. It collects information from our five senses and somehow molds it all into reactions and moods.

These bits and pieces are what gives us an image… an interpretation of what a hug is. Crazy!

I set out and asked my friends and family via Facebook what they thought a hug is. Only a few responded, but I was intrigued anyway.

A Hug Is

Reassurance, comfort, love.

C. D., a friend, 30s

It’s anything and everything you need right now. It’s warm. It’s peaceful. It’s home.

K.M., a friend and coworker, 30s

A hug is the love inside you coming out through your arms to the one you’re hugging. It’s the friendliest way to say you care without being sexist, racist, religiously critical or too overwhelming. It gives back to you a feeling of well-being.

P.B., a family member, 80s

Closeness among friends.

G. T., a friend, 60s

…like a tip: it’s a sign of gratitude in a (usually) platonic way in the form of something vague and useful.

C. G., a friend and waiter, 20s

Holding someone you care for close to you with the purpose of feeling better or making them feel better.

S. C., a family member, 60s

A sign of affection. Happiness. Sadness.

M.C., a family member, 60s

[…is place where] there are no secrets.

D.C., a friend, 30s
From Google’s Reuse section

In amazing human fashion, there are as many different takes on what a hug is as there are people on this planet. If one were to take the time to make a word cloud of all the keywords from a free response survey, I’m sure real qualitative data could be gathered! Perhaps some of the top docs in the field have already done so.

Throughout the day, as comments continued to trickle in, one friend showed me an interesting perspective. She said something akin to “You must relax and remember to breathe in a hug. They’re not to be taken advantage of.” While I know her to have experienced many unfortunate and inconvenient upheavals in her life, I suspect this view was coming from experience.

What a Hug is Not

Other definitions of a hug are to cling together and to keep close to. Analyzed with a jaundiced and bitter eye, a hug can bring forth ugliness. It can make us remember times where we were oh-so vulnerable and an individual we thought we trusted took that openness in hand with a mean intent.

Touching a touchy subject, pedophilia and pedophiles have been in the news recently thanks to Jeff Epstein (seriously, what was up with that guy?) and the huge push for pedophilia to be recognized as a sexual orientation. Even now, in France, there is a public outcry to revolutionize old and out-dated views on what the best age for consent is because one victim decided to write a book about her encounter with a celebrated pedophile.

Not only that, but both men and women with a record of manipulation, aggression, and emotional abuse of their peers (among other things) use hugs to gain our trust and rip our finances, family, and peace of mind from right under our noses. What is their end game? Is it an internal drive they can’t rid themselves of? Perhaps they’re receiving some kind of divine vision from Up High. Do they feel this urge sometimes or has it been there since birth? I can continue to wonder in suppositions.

However, I’m certain we can agree on what a hug is not. It is not permission to do as we please with another human, their surroundings, or loved ones. It is not a green light to strip someone of their self-worth; for who are we to play an Ultimate Being?

A True Gesture

In my humble opinion, a hug is a place in which all is communicated and all is felt on the deepest of levels. It is a delicate dance that brings balance to us — a weakened state garnering strength from a sturdy source, a wail in the dark being soothed back to sleep, a celebration after much toil.

A hug is the hallmark of a strong community, a gesture shared among strangers and loved ones alike. It’s used to bring others into the fold, warm and secure.

Simply put, a hug is an aspect of true human experience.

***

For my next post, I’d like to discuss “silence.” But first, a poll!

Self-doubt and Anxiety: I feel heavy.

Photo by Keenan Constance on Pexels.com

I sit here, greatly perturbed.

A weight is resting heavily on me.

My throat is parched.

Water.

The dreary, chunky clouds are a reflection.

I feel so alone.

Ah. There. Some tears.

Nausea.

Loss.

Fear.

Worry.

Photo by Alycia Fung on Pexels.com

An undeniable urge to do something remains a stone in my chest. Why can’t I remove the chains that are dragging me down… from enjoying life? Do I even want them gone? They are all I know and just today, I realized that that is truly what I’m afraid of the most: floating up into the unknown.

We all have these thoughts at some point — it’s just that others are better at breaking them down and handling them in a kind manner.

Of course, this is not the first time I’ve had such serious doubts about myself and the future. The sense of doom hits rather suddenly — like a bug to the eye when you’re riding your bike.

Stop.

Breathe.

The answers are inside of us. It’s just a matter of “picking up the pieces” and finding ourselves again.

I want you, but I don’t need you: Personal thoughts on self-validation.

Social distancing has got me in the throes of passion. Passionate reflection, that is. Today’s topic is self-validation. I might have touched on it here, but it’s bothering me, so I’m going to yammer on about it again.

The Backstory

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I’ve had a MySpace, a DeviantArt, a Gaia Online (is that even a thing anymore? – come to think of it, that’s where I started getting my first art commissions for a fake currency, met my first boyfriend, and met a bunch of cool people!), a Twitter, several Instagrams, and a Facebook that I’ve deleted at least once and deactivated a bunch of times. To this day, I can’t recall why I even bothered making the rounds.

One day I’ll be all, “Yes! Let me wow my friends and family with my art! BOOM. How did you like those awesome flower photos?! SNAP. Look at this video that I found interesting and have strong opinions about!”

And then there are the days where I’m like, “No one cares. I could disappear and no one would even lift a finger to figure out why. Seriously, the world is an ocean. What’s one more drop of rain that no one will notice?” Perhaps it was a case of “seemed like a good idea at the time,” as my dear ol’ pa likes to say.

The Current Irritation

About a day ago, JST (Japan Standard Time), I posted a piece of art I worked hard on and was rather proud of. Looking back now, I should have waited for the right time of day because back home, it was something like 1AM. WHO’S AWAKE AT THAT TIME BESIDES WEIRDOS AND INSOMNIACS?! Well, needless to say, that photo currently has 8 likes.

I’m left sitting here wondering why. Is it my art style? Probably. Is it my personality? Yeah, I could use some refining. Is it the algorithm? I bet that plays a huge portion of it.

What blows my mind is that I see these young people (granted, I just turned 29, so by “young” I mean 15-23 years old) who are absolutely leveling the field. They bust onto the scene with their mad skills, using iPad Procreate and whatever else they’re using these days, to make their path to stardom squeaky clean.

Yes. I’m bitter. I’m petty. I want the same kind of attention, damnit. Am I feeling entitled just because “I’ve been doing it longer?” Why am I seeking validation from them? Why do I so badly want to be included rather than take stock and appreciate the input that matters?

The Challenge

Instead of being productive in a way that would be beneficial to my livelihood, I’m here researching how to STOP LOOKING FOR VALIDATION.

Psychology Today says:

The problem arises when self-validation is not possible or is not valued. In other words, if an individual puts the opinion, approval, or recognition of someone else over their own feelings, they will need that external, other person’s validation on an ongoing basis.

If that ain’t me in a nutshell. Seriously, when did this Notice-me-senpai BS start? Is it my Only Child Syndrome?*

In the U.S., almost 70 percent of the adult population uses Facebook, with 90.4 percent of Millennials reporting themselves to be active users. By clicking the thumbs up, posting a comment, or sharing a post, people are validating each other at an increasing rate.

This, as well as the need for in-person validation, can create anxietydepression, and low self-esteem, and make it addictive to hear praise, acceptance, and acknowledgment in all aspects of life.

I can’t say that social media is the root cause of my general depression and anxiety, but it certainly aggravates the feelings that continue to churn beneath the surface. Might I also add that, because of social media, I’ve rarely formed a genuine, off-the-grid romance with someone? Ah, but that’s a another tangent for another day.

The main point here is that, without the attention, I start feeling like I’m not good enough. (One long-winded example is here.) Like my art isn’t good enough. Like my opinions aren’t good enough. Like my advice isn’t good enough. Like my character isn’t good enough. Like… my humanity isn’t good enough.

Man, when did the world become so mean and superficial?

The Eureka Moment

Another article that I was looking at comes from Medium. The author talks about their experience and thoughts on the issue between social media and self-validation:

When we’re so focused on how others are viewing our work or daily routines, we lose sight of who we are as people and what we really care about. Instead, we view every activity or daily routine as simply another opportunity to be seen.

This brings to my mind this cycle of thinking I have. One friend will tell me that they’d like to see a certain something about Japan. The most immediate thought is, “There are tons of other YouTube stars and high profile bloggers out there that have already talked about it. Why ask me?” That absolutely tanks whatever self-confidence I had in that moment.

I’m small and insignificant.

Wait.

WAIT A GOSH DARN MINUTE THERE, COWBOY.

I kid you not, as that statement left my brain and was pooped out by my fingers, I realized how stupid that just sounded.

When that one friend says they’d like to enjoy something from me despite the world being at their fingertips and instantly accessible, they’re wanting my spin on things. They want my personality. They want my IDGAF attitude, my weird facial expressions.

It’s the same with my art! The few people that take the time to look at and like my stuff are 90% of the time people close to me. They’ve known me for years! And they know firsthand what I’m capable of… they know my talents and good points… even if I can’t see them myself.

The real meaning of life comes only from living our own truth and creating our own happiness.

[…]

Instead of relying on others to give us the confidence we need, it’s important to remember that the expectations we set for ourselves are what ultimately matter.

[…]

…when we’re so focused on what our followers think of us, we’re no longer connected to our true purpose. Instead, we’re more concerned with finding the “best” moments and capturing them as a highlight in our social media stories.

I could go on, but I want to remember what one of my uncles told me.

Emotions are a natural part of you. YOUR emotions… your feelings… your attitude about your life and everything around you is absolutely unique to you and your experiences. […] But one thing you must understand… you… are… incredible. Just the way you are. For all your weirdness, silliness, sadness, happiness, and those moments of wild abandon… and for all those moments you will feel every one of those things and more in that very instant…. you… are… wonderful. You are loved just for who and what you are.

I may want validation, but I don’t need it from social media. I can find it within myself.

Self-isowhat?

Never would I have thought that I’d be stocking up on non-perishables and learning how to make a mask. Sure, the folks who have believed the zombie apocalypse would be coming all along have been prepared for ages, but what about the rest of us who can’t even grasp the idea? Part of me is still in denial.

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My stash of water, and newly acquired items: tissue, toilet paper, flour, tea, curry rou, udon noodles, chicken stock, rice, canned tomatoes, honey, and dressing.

According to the NHK, Japan’s largest broadcasting network, 197 new coronavirus cases were reported as of Saturday in Tokyo. (April 11, 2020), 674 nationwide. Just before that, dear ol’ Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally caved and agreed to issue a State of Emergency (plus stimulus package!) for the 7 prefectures most currently affected by the outbreak. While many people, including myself, are on the fence as to whether or not his measures will be effective or not remains to be seen.

In wake of this “soft lockdown,” my own prefecture and Board of Education has advised the closing of schools as well. I consider myself lucky in that I’m still receiving pay and my company is working as hard as it can to keep the business up and rolling. Unfortunately, many are not receiving the same kind of care. The General Union, based in Osaka, was kind enough to get the most current information together and put it upon their website.

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The mask that was never finished.

None of us thought we’d be in this kind of situation.

With mask buyback programs in the works (at least in Wisconsin), closeted seamstress and grandmothers working their fingers to the bone churning out homemade coverings, and people walking around with water bottles on their heads, it’s clear to me that there’s some confusion going on. (Seriously, the number of memes on this stuff is lit.)

My real question, though, is: How hard is it for people to understand that they just need to stay home? The closest I get to going out is usually stepping out onto my balcony if I don’t have business to conduct elsewhere. And… by “business to conduct,” I mean go buy craft stuff from the 100-yen store and donuts from Mr. Donuts. HOWEVER, DO AS I SAY AND NOT AS I DO. There are tons of ideas for people to search for on the internet now.

Heck, the activities they choose don’t even need to follow someone else’s plan! They can make and follow their own! This is the age for ingenuity and critical thinking. For too long, as a society, we’ve been soft and comfortable with our sheltered lives!

TLDR; I’m feeling guilty over my conduct lately while all my friends and family have been so good about self-isolating.

Seriously, though. I want some donuts.

Myers-Briggs and I

Let’s talk Myers-Briggs. Just about everyone and their mom should know what this is or has had heard of it at some point. It’s basically a psychological test that puts an individual into a personality type based on the level of disagreement or agreement they have towards choice statements (i.e. After a hard work week, you prefer to be around a boisterous crowd rather than sit at home -> Greatly Agree, Agree a little, etc.).

There are 16 types of personalities, by the way, which are grouped into opposites:

  • Extroverted vs. Introverted
  • Sensing vs. Intuition
  • Thinking vs. Feeling
  • Judging vs. Perceiving

1200px-Unclesamwantyou

From the get-go, we can all basically say that we’re either extroverted or introverted. For some, it’s definitely a deciding factor in regards to hobbies or jobs. I was one of those people. Myers-Briggs was the test I took when I was having trouble figuring out what I wanted to do after college. You might laugh and say that’s funny, but it was doubly more useless than the bullshit ASVAB test the military gets you to take under the guise of Want to Know What Job is Best for You?! Take Our Test!

When I was at the precipice of deciding whether or not I should go into chiropractic work (Plan A: what I thought I should do) or go to Japan (Plan B: what I wanted to do), I took a Myers-Briggs test. My result? INFP: Introverted Intuition Feeling Perceiving or “The Mediator” or “The Healer.”

At least… I thought it sounded like me? I was very concerned with wanting to be of use to someone, caring for others, and providing support. Basically, I wanted to nurture someone without having to have children I wasn’t ready for. At the same time, I wanted the freedom to be creative and pursue my art. Doing a quick Google search on “INFP careers” gave me a list of things I was already interested in or already doing!

Here are some examples:

  • Fine art
  • Animation
  • Photography
  • Writing
  • Nutrition
  • Chiropractics
  • Nursing
  • Languages
  • Plants and flowers
  • Investigation and research

One career that stuck out was “teacher.” Because of what I was going to be doing in Japan (being an ALT, Assistant Language Teacher), I thought, “This must be a sign. I love it when I can share my knowledge with others and enlighten them. Maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Fast-forward to 2020 and here I am, taking the test again.

I was inspired to do so by a young person I follow on Instagram. They had posted about feeling insecure about their artwork and not feeling like they were good enough, what with being surrounded by better and more advanced artists.

I felt that.

I felt that so hard that I had this drive to tell them they weren’t alone. I too have the same huge weight on my mind. It’s so humongous in fact that I have more or less stopped drawing.

Anyway, so what did I get this time? ISFP-T: Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving – Turbulent, “The Composer” or “The Adventurer.” But… what does “turbulent” mean? This is the first time I’ve seen it.

Turbulent Adventurers are just as likely to explore, just a little closer to the familiar and deeper within their comfort zones.

[They] may be less sure about their contributions… question the worthiness of their ideas and results. [They may even feel uncertain about them]. Their doubts may make any breakthrough successes hard to accept.

[They] are less likely to feel competent in the face of stress. At first glance, this might appear negative. But whenever these personalities encounter something that feels stressful, their lack of confidence is likely to cause them to be more concerned about it – perhaps even to feel dread because of it. These feelings may bring about a heightened awareness of actual or potential problems.

…societal pressures still seem to influence many Adventurer personalities. Standard scorecards that pinpoint who is doing well in a community carry more weight among Turbulent Adventurers…

Turbulent Adventurers are likely a little less independent, but more likely to be open to working on a team or collaborating. They need to know that others approve of them and that the people who matter to them are all right with what they do.

Oh, OK. So, basically, I’m sensitive and constantly worried about what others think. Mmyeah, that sounds about right. More often that not, I let those negative emotions suppress my talents. But what about the rest of it? I’ll bullet-point it here along with a comparison between an INFP and an ISFP.

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At this point, you’re probably going, “But they’re the same thing.” Heck, even the career suggestions are similar or outright exact. I want to personally thank the people over at reddit for digging deep into the topic of Myers-Briggs and MBTI typing. Having read their collected information on INFP vs. ISFPs, I can certainly say that I feel more at ease with my typing as an ISFP rather than an obsessive INFP. Granted, I can still get obsessed about things, but it seems that it’s in a different manner compared to my sibling, the INFP.

Do you know your acronym? Has it helped in determining your path in life? Let me know!

Sweet Dreams are Made of These

It’s weird how dreams stick with you. It’s even weirder how your subconscious blends in with the real stuff and leaves you feeling things; confusion especially. I also really wanna go find the bird that I found in my sleep. That was freaky time slip disco right there.

time warp

What did I dream about, you’re probably wondering? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is a large veranda. It was wide, like a rooftop, surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and white. Think hospital or office. And yet… as dreams are often wont to do, the fence became bushes and flowers with a creaky gate hanging open off to the side.

rooftop
From this to the Secret Garden. No joke.

Before I knew what I was about, there was a group of faceless junior high school students to my left, blurred by my peripheral, lined up, and being addressed by a teacher who looked eerily like my old English teacher, Mr. Archibald. (If you ever happen to read this, Archi, you’re the best! Tell everyone I said hi!) To my right, a string of sweaty teenagers were dumping their rank, yellowed T-shirts in a pile at my feet. I’m concerned now with how saturated they were with sweat. Never in my life do I hope to experience this firsthand.

dirty laundry

Now, when I was a teenager and young adult, I didn’t understand why laundry was such

a big deal. It was a chore! It was a pain sorting out the colors from the blacks and making sure nothing red ended up in the whites. Boy, has my tune changed! I enjoy doing laundry now. And that’s exactly what I did in my dream.

Cue environmental change and I’m back in the crowded garage of my family home. The amount of laundry I personally generate wouldn’t even be adequate enough to fill the humongous Samsung Autobot my folks have, but I digress. In the dream, I threw all the nasty shirts into the barrel and set them to go. In the meantime, I hear this chirping.

hummingbirdMind you, birds flying in and getting stuck in the garage isn’t unheard of. Sometimes hummingbirds will chill on the junk my dad has hanging from the ceiling or sit on his tool boxes, watching everything. But the noise I was hearing belonged to a cockatiel and I found him! On the floor! With a bum wing! Now, this is where things get strange.

Apparently, this little guy was missing but, in my dream mind’s eye, I see a breaking news story that the bird was reunited with its owner as it happens in real time. The woman was crying and was so ecstatic over being with her pet once more but… it was right there with me as well…? How could I possibly be experiencing something, while at the same time, also living it in my head? Yeah, I dunno but that bird stuck with me after I woke up.

Do you ever have strange dreams that hang around in your head?

Give me corona, or give me soap!

Give me liberty or give me death” certainly wasn’t how I thought I’d start this out, but it came to mind anyway. I suppose it fits the current situation nonetheless.

Everyone is aware that the coronavirus is wreaking mayhem across the globe. It’s seeping into our already weakened economic sectors, scaring politicians into denial, and causing panic all around. Even I’m starting to feel the nervousness around me.

When Abe Shinzo hit Japan with his suggestion to close all schools, the whole country absolutely freaked out. Social media lit up and everyone was left wondering: what’s next? My suspicions aside, I suppose the crackdown has helped… a little. Despite Japan’s uncanny ability to adjust and adapt, the cons are causing the scale of balance to tip.

Stocks are dropping.

People are becoming scared and downright mean.

Events are being cancelled.

Places that were once teeming with life have emptied.

Every morning, I watch the local train pass by my window. It’s become a ghost train; not a soul aboard. I so desperately want to go out and experience the world around me, but cannot because it’s been recommended that I not go out unless I have to.

To avoid people.

To… exist.

I honestly feel like I’ve walked into a Ray Bradbury story. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.

Give me corona, or give me soap.