Finding Happiness in Work and Avoiding Deceit!

With the population of the planet nearing 8 billion people, it makes sense that finding a job you’re truly passionate about is going to become more and more challenging. After all, the more people who roam the world, the more competition there is for any given job. Working a job you hate can make your life feel truly miserable: what’s the point of working if you aren’t happy? One thing I’ve found recently, while meandering my way through the job jungle, is that most jobs suck because you’re required to behave in a manner that is ultimately not entirely moral. This post also gives me an opportunity to rant about my most recent job and warn people of its entirely sketchy nature!

The Psychic Company

image via Clyde Fitch Report

So I’m going to start off with the best example of what I’m referring to. This section will serve as a rant but also as a warning as I feel that those who take part in such activities should be made aware of the deceitful nature of these companies. So let me start off by explaining the job: I was hired by a company called “The 7th Circle” and yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds. My job was to connect calls between people wishing to receive psychic readings and the psychics giving said readings. The job title was often referred to as a “psychic’s assistant”.

I took this job because desperate times call for desperate measures. The premise initially sounded fair. People call up and make appointments. I wouldn’t be selling anything, simply connecting calls. If they had so much as mentioned sales I would have been straight out the door. However, I soon learned that there is a sales aspect to the job (although my 4 days of employment prior to quitting didn’t give me enough time to reach that stage). However, there were some truly grizzly details that began to tear away at my very soul.

My Stance

image via Daily Express

I don’t believe in horoscopes, psychics, astrology, or anything that can be associated with magic crystals. However, I have no problem with connecting people to psychics if that is what they want to spend their money on. I mean it isn’t really any different to religion. One thing I realised early on was that this company knew they were being sketchy. For example, when signing up new clients one question you have to ask is “Do you receive disability payments from your government?” About half of the callers’ answer “yes” which leads to the follow-up question of “Are you financially independent?” So provided that person isn’t using someone else’s money, their disability checks can go straight into the hands of this company.

As I said already, I was only there for 4 days and within those 4 days each and every call grated away more and more of my very being. I won’t go into specifics but one call was from a woman who had just given birth a couple of months earlier and wanted a psychic to tell her whether she should break up with her current partner to be with someone she’d been chatting to online. Another call, which was truly heart-breaking, was someone who had spent all their money and had been forced to borrow money from friends just to hear what a psychic had to say about their life. The desperation was apparent even over the phone.

Calls like this were incredibly common and I started trying to find roundabout ways to basically explain that they shouldn’t use this service. My calls were still being monitored by the “higher ups” but I wasn’t far from just telling every client to use the last of their money on something more substantial than nonsensical calls, particularly when there are children involved.

The Truth about the Company!

image via The Ness

So the name of the company is “The Psychic Company” but their website is something like good-psychic.com (I’ve struggled to find the exact link). Suffice to say that it’s an incredibly popular website with an equally as popular call centre. People have spent 10s and even 100s of thousands of dollars through the service and the weight that they put on these psychics is more faith than I’ve ever witnessed anyone place on anything. As I said earlier, that’s completely fine…provided it’s only their life that they are putting in jeopardy.

The thing is (and I don’t say this lightly), it’s all a scam. As in beyond so much as a shadow of a doubt, it’s a scam. I’m not saying this as someone who doesn’t believe in the practices, I’m saying this as someone who had dealt first-hand with the so-called “psychics” and their money hungry desires. Let me explain exactly what I mean.

The way that we get new clients is via the website. People sign up for a free online reading. This involves giving the website your e-mail address and via this address you receive a “reading”. However, not long after you receive an ominous e-mail along the lines of “someone in your life is jealous of you” or “the love of your life is about to slip away” or “someone in your life is in danger”. All of these e-mails end with something like “call us immediately  to speak to Jenny”.

“Jenny” doesn’t even exist. When these people phone in (many of whom have received the exact same e-mail, word for word) we tell them that Jenny isn’t available right now but that her colleagues are.

The Psychics

Psychics

image via Christian Courier

This brings me back to the purpose of this post: the deceit. As of day 3, I was thinking of quitting. On day 4 I almost walked out halfway through the day. By the end of day 4 my mind was pretty much made up. I can’t play a role in allowing people to believe that these psychics are the real deal. When I was being shown the ropes, one of the “tricks of the trade” was to ask clients whether they are interested in speaking to a psychic about love and relationships or careers and finances. Their answer does not matter! They are connected to the first available psychic who is then informed beforehand that this client wishes to focus on one topic or another.

The psychics themselves are miserable. I don’t mean “oh, they deal with a lot of negative energy that messes with the functionality of the heart chakra leading to energy blockages and a messed up feng shui energy”…no, I mean that these people know that they are lying to vulnerable people. They know as well as I do that everything that comes out of their mouth is absolute bullshit! Each call ends with the assistant telling the client “Grace would love to speak to you again; she even has a date in mind just for you”.

For people who claim to believe in karma and spirituality, it seems surprising that they are so happy taking up to $7.50 per minute from people who are claiming benefits from their government. Now, not to sound judgemental here, but none of these people are working on the cure for cancer. They aren’t reading books or trying to better the world. They don’t care about global warming, the bombings in Syria, space exploration, the abortion debate, sweat shops, tensions in North Korea…you get the idea. They are content living their lives week to week because psychics tell them that better things are coming. Hope is great…but remaining financially stable (particularly when you have children) is more important.

The Rat Race

Psychics

image via YouTube

This job (and other like it) is all about deception. It’s not about providing a service, it’s about convincing people that they need the service, even when it doesn’t better their lives in any way. It’s one of the reasons I find advertising to be such a shitty thing to exist. It rarely benefits us. It’s almost entirely about convincing us that we need something that we don’t.

Now, if these psychics genuinely believed in what they were doing and didn’t use sketchy tactics to lure people in, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it. Like I said earlier, people can believe what they want and spend their money on what they want.

Yet this is a pattern that emerges throughout the job industry. I recently moved to Barcelona and upon arriving I took a job as a Segway Tour salesperson. I loved the sound of it! My job was to drive around on a Segway to find people interested in paying for a tour. The tours involved a group of people riding from landmark to landmark on Segways, stopping at each to learn a little something about it. Sounds good in theory, right?

Not really. Given the size of Barcelona and all the truly remarkable sights you can visit, the tour locations are by far the least amazing areas one could think of. Not only that, those giving the tour typically didn’t speak very good English (despite there being native English speakers such as myself working there) and generally speaking they didn’t offer any great insight into the tour destinations. This job was made worse by the crazy hours in the sun (keep in mind that I’m a pale-white ginger man from Scotland: I’m used to 15 degree summers with 3 days of sun a year) and the fact that we’re only paid commission. I don’t mind selling something that is worth people’s money but selling half-assed tours to boring-ass locations…no thanks.

Hard Work and Dedication

Psychics

image via Inspired 2 Go

By this point, I’m sure some of you think I’m just recoiling at the thought of working hard. I want to take a moment to discuss the job I had prior to moving to Spain: Costco. At the time, I didn’t hugely appreciate my job there. I always felt like I was meant to do more than stock shelves…but in hindsight, I realise that the job was building up to something bigger. I worked hard in that role and I enjoyed doing so. I’d take on extra hours, I’d volunteer for training in new areas, I’d help coach the newbies, and I even went to London and Paris to help set up their stores. Had I always dreamed of working there? No…but it was honest work.

I think the problem stems from the idea that we’ve been raised to believe that jobs like that are beneath us. I know that’s how I viewed it when I worked there. I now realise that’s far from the truth. I rarely felt absolutely defeated after work (unlike with the call centre and Segway jobs) despite Costco involving heavy lifting, dragging huge weights of stock out to the floor, and dealing with customers on a near-constant basis. Leaving work I’d actually feel more accomplished than anything, even if I didn’t realise it back then. If a Costco opens up in Barcelona (which I believe it will sometime in the future) then I’d happily work there.

Whether the work itself is tiring or not isn’t actually what leaves you feeling exhausted. It’s closer related to whether you feel like you’ve A) Exploited people in order to earn a very small amount of money (I was getting less than 5€ an hour for the call centre job) and B) Do you feel like what you’re doing has benefited your life in any way? At Costco I was constantly learning new things. Would I use these things in day to day life? Probably not…but I was also being very physically active and communicating with customers face to face. If you’re doing a job that relates to point B, it will probably work perfectly fine in the short term.

Does this Apply to Freelance Work?

Psychics

image via Hub Pages

So I’m circling back around to the job that I currently do: freelance writing. You may be thinking to yourself that as a freelancer I have more scope for choosing the sort of work I do. The answer is yes and no. When starting out, I had no option but to take shitty, deceptive jobs. This would include making up reviews for Amazon products (such as violins or headphones) or copywriting the work of other people. Are these moral jobs? No, of course not…but when you start out these are the only employers who will hire you.

As I’ve improved my profile, my ratings and my presence on the site (and off it), I’ve been able to choose work that closer aligns with my core values. Currently, I’m writing the audio guide content for a app that covers cities such as Rome and Bruges. It probably works out that I’m paid less than minimum wage but I feel proud of what I’m doing and I know that people are going to benefit from my work. It also improves me portfolio as a writer.

I was about to ask if this was the choice we have to make: a job that pays well but destroys your soul or a job that offers a feel-good factor while paying your pennies? But then I realised that Costco was pretty well paid, certainly one of the higher paid jobs in the retail industry. Also, the call centre and Segway sales jobs paid nothing (which is true for both examples as I literally made no money from either venture).

Final Thoughts

Psychics

image via Deviant Art

This post doesn’t really have any major point. It doesn’t propose a ground-breaking theory or discuss a hugely relevant topic. However, I think it does offer the opportunity to consider whether this is the world we live in. Does chasing your dreams mean that you’ll struggle to pay bills each month? Do we have to abandon our preconceived notions of success and instead focus on jobs that don’t make us lose all our faith in humanity?


Thanks for reading! Are you working towards your dream job or do you believe that life involves working less than ideal jobs in order to enjoy our time outside of it? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

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Freelancer: How to Avoid Scams and Find Solid Work!

So if you’ve read any of my posts before, you’ll be fully aware that I tend to rant about stuff (hence the hugely unimaginative name for my blog) and perhaps you’ve even read my previous Freelancer post which details by almost entirely negative experience when taking the initial steps towards becoming a freelance writer. Today, I’m going to try and summarise some of the main points that can help you to not only find solid work but avoid all the dipshits who will try and take your time, money or both. I’ll throw in a few personal experiences here and there but ultimately I’m going to try and keep this as concise as possible…something I inevitably failed to do!

What is Freelancer?

Freelancer

image via CareerLancer

So Freelancer is a hub, of sorts, whereby freelance workers can find employment (and vice versa). I hate many, many, MANY aspects of it because the site, it’s rules and it’s charges are absolutely criminal…but once you start finding work, you can’t help but look beyond these downsides. It should be noted that if you can find work ANYWHERE else, I’d recommend doing so. I tried UpWork but even once my profile was approved I couldn’t find a single job. So this post will focus solely on Freelancer but I’m sure much of what I’m going to say here can be applied to other similar sites.

Main Freelancer Scams

Freelancer

image via Get the Gloss

Again, if you want to see the negative side of Freelancer (which is the side that greets you upon joining) then you only have to head over to my previous post on the topic. I’m sure you’ll be able to feel my rage through the screen. Freelancer is not a friendly place! Not only are many, many people looking to rip you off (one way or the other) but the staff and their “rules” are not going to help you out in the slightest. Sure, if you report someone then they will deal with it…but if you lose money or don’t get paid then they pretty much just leave you to struggle with it on your own. As such, I’m going to take you through some of the common problems you will likely encounter, how you can avoid them and some of the tell-tale signs of a scammer.

Stealing your Time

One problem you are almost guaranteed to encounter is people who don’t pay you. I know, I know, you’re wondering why I’ve titled this section “stealing your time” rather than “stealing your money”…trust me, all will be explained! So when you accept work from anybody, you essentially enter into a contract with them: in exchange for you completing the tasked job, they will pay you the agreed upon amount of money. In an ideal world, that is exactly how it would work. Freelancer is far from ideal.

Any time you start off with a new employer, you run the risk that you’ll work your ass off and then they’ll simply take the work and vanish. When I first started out this happened to me a lot! There are of course some simple steps to take in order to avoid this from happening. We’ll take a look at these in a moment.

Stealing your Money

Of course Freelancer is in many ways an investment…an investment that will not pay off if you can’t avoid the scammers. As I mentioned before, Freelancer will do NOTHING in relation to your money. Here’s why this is a problem for you: Every single time you accept a new project, you get charged a fee. This fee varies but is usually an absolute minimum of 3 pounds, dollars, Euros or whatever else. Long story short, you have to pay to work for an employer. You’re essentially betting that they will pay you. We’ll touch on this in more detail during the next section but one thing to keep in mind is don’t hastily accept projects without discussing details with employer first.

Also keep in mind that people can be dicks…and so you might accept a project that sounds great and then the person just leaves. Sure, you don’t lose any time because you haven’t done any work yet…but you do lose money. I was spending more money than I was making when I first started out and the staff at Freelancer refuse to do anything to help because freelancers being ripped off benefits them. The system isn’t broken; it works exactly how they planned it.

These are basically the two main issues you’re going to encounter. So how can you avoid these? In all honesty, I’m not sure you can completely. When you first join the site you have no reputation at all. Nobody paying a decent amount of money is going to want to employ you and so you need to dive into the murky waters and just hope that the greedy river goblins don’t drag you down under!

Avoiding the Scammers

Freelancer

image via R Capital Associates

Let’s take a look at the simplest methods for staying away from these scummy pieces of shit! I’ll write this based on the assumption that you’re completely new to Freelancer and therefore have no reputation, no reviews and often no choice but to aim low.

1. No Reputation or Information

The first red flag is a pretty standard one. If the profile contacting you is brand new (especially if it was made within the last week) and is blank, then they probably have no long term plans for the site. Sometimes, when you click on a profile, it will take you to the employee page instead of the employer page. This means that even a reputable employer may appear to have no reviews. You can always ask the employer if they’ve work on the site before and you can ask for a direct link to their employer page if you’re having any problems.

Similarly, if the profile has a small number of reviews but ultimately still appears largely blank, this can be a red flag. You don’t want to rely entirely on the reviews as many profiles will work with other profiles to give fake reviews. Obviously if they have an incredibly large sample then you have less to worry about. A blank profile alone isn’t enough to ditch a potential employer but its the first red flag out of what could be many.

2. Taking Work Off-Site

This is something that the Freelancer site will reiterate to you over and over again…of course, the reason they do it is because they don’t want their site to be used for networking and then to lose out on off-site financial transactions. They also claim that it relates to their ability to help site users but that’s absolute bullshit. Not once have they helped me in any way and they won’t ever, ever, EVER give you any money back.

However, not a single person who wanted to move the conversation off-site was fully trustworthy. One of them even paid me for half the work and then just disappeared from the face of the world. Bearing in mind that half the work was about 12 articles! I keep using free versions of copyscape to try and track down the work that I did for them! Other examples include transcribing jobs that involved working over a long period of time before being able to “claim” money. Sketchy projects like these should be avoided where possible.

3. Always, Always, ALWAYS Use the Milestone System

When you first start out, you’re going to come across a lot of incredible sounding jobs. These jobs will often state straight away that payment is every Tuesday or every two weeks or even every month. I even had someone try to hire me for 6 months of work, claiming that I’d get paid at the end. Even if the project sounds like your dream job, keep your expectations low and remain level-headed.

The simplest way to root out a scammer is to demand that you’re paid for each piece of work. You don’t have to be aggressive or rude about it. For example, whenever I bid for a project I always mention that I work strictly through the milestone system. To clarify this point, I’ll confirm with any potential employer BEFORE accepting the project that payment will be for each portion/piece of work. Any respectable employer will agree to that. After all, you know nothing about this person. Are you just supposed to take it on faith that they’ll keep their word?

Once you start to build a professional relationship with someone and you know that payment won’t be an issue, you can begin to cut back on the use of the milestone system. For example, my current employer started off by paying me per article, then every two articles. Once I started getting regular work, this spread to once a week and now I tend to just wait until I’ve completed the project in its entirety before asking for payment. So my advice would be to set up any sort of milestone just to find out if a potential employer is actually willing to pay or not.

4. Get ALL the Details before Accepting a Project

Again, this may seem like common sense but once you start finding projects that sound interesting, it can be a natural reaction to jump the gun a little bit. No matter how compelling and detailed a project description was when you bid for it, establish everything you can about the project within the chat function on the site. The more details you can compile within this window, the better. Ask questions such as: When is the deadline? What sort of work is it? How long does everything need to be? What is the total payment? How will the milestone payments be divided up? What style of writing will it be?

You’re probably wondering why this is so important prior to accepting any project. It actually serves three functions. For starters, it helps root out scammers from the get go. They tend to reveal details that simply sound sketchy or they will try to keep certain details from you. Secondly, it will stop you from accepting a project that will be hell to complete. I’ve made the mistake of accepting a project with very few details and while they only took a few hours to complete, it was painfully dull. The problem is that as soon as you accept the project you’re financially invested and so to just breakeven, you have to complete the work. Failure to do so not only results in loss of money but also in a negative review. This brings me to my third point.

In the event that your employer tries to dupe you into doing more work and you’re worried that failing to do so will result in negative reviews, you NEED to have all the information at hand. Freelancer staff can remove negative reviews if (and only if) you can provide evidence that the employer was being dishonest or manipulative in some way. So have everything detailed in the chat is a great back-up option.

5. If It Sounds Too Good to be True, It Usually Is

Another worrying scam that I’ve only recently encountered on the site is people trying to steal your identity. Freelancer isn’t the only freelance site but as far as I’ve found, it’s actually one of the easier ones to get work from. Upwork, for example, requires you to be approved. As such, people will steal your identity (sometimes through promising payment for doing so) and will use your face and qualifications on other sites. My encounter with this was a guy offering me a project involving writing film reviews. The pay was good (too good) and he claimed he needed proof of my qualifications and UK residency.

I don’t actually live in the UK but according to my driver’s license, I do. So I sent this scumbag my scanned copy of my university degree and a photo of me holding my driver’s license. I purposefully hid my full address as I was aware that the whole ordeal seemed off. The piece of shit then came up with some excuse like “my marketing manager has just informed me that we need your full address to send you information that can’t be sent online”. On that note I reported him and his account was deleted.

The first red flag should have been the payment though. That’s not to say that you won’t find great offers on Freelancer. I get paid more now in two weeks than I would in a month at my previous job…but you have to weigh up everything about the employer, the work and all the other aspects I’ve mentioned so far.

6. Use Freelancer as Intended

The final point I’m going to mention is related to other project types that you may come across on Freelancer. As I mentioned in the last point, people may try and employ you to set up profiles in your name and with your experience on other sites. This will typically involve uploading confirmation photos, forms of ID, etc. Don’t…just don’t! These are never, ever, ever going to end well and you’re just allowing yourself to be noticed in a negative light on these other sites. When I first started on Freelancer, I fell for one of these scams because it sounded simple.

For over a month, this person used a profile that was in my name and with my photo and information. I refused to give up complete control of the account and when they refused to pay me (the account had already been blocked by this stage) I simply messaged the staff at UpWork and explained the situation in full. All I wanted was to have my information removed.

Another example is people trying to buy bitcoins. I almost fell for this one and it is only through complete luck that I didn’t. Some guy was looking to buy bitcoins for more than they are worth. I had some spare and thought, why not? What you have to remember is that transactions can be reversed. So this guy sent me like $200 which appeared on my Freelancer account. I was just about to send him the bitcoins, I had everything set up and just need to click “done”…when I thought I’d double check the money…and it was gone. This guy had essentially reported himself to Freelancer who reversed the transaction because it broke terms and conditions and had I sent him the bitcoins, I’d have been down over $100. Just use Freelancer for the jobs it allows. I mean the staff aren’t going to help you with anything anyway but they certainly won’t help you if you break their rules.

7. Freelancer is NOT Your Friend

This point might sound a little ridiculous but it’s something that I’ve mentioned a bit throughout this post. However, after posting this article I decided that I should come back and make this lesson/warning a point of its own: Freelancer is NOT your friend. The staff are not there to help you, they aren’t there to help you earn money, they aren’t there to make sure that you get a fair deal, they aren’t there to stop you getting ripped off. No…their sole function is to earn money for the site and avoid people taking business off-site.

Am I paranoid? Possibly…but not in regards to this. I recently completed a project and in doing so one of my milestones had to be updated to a higher amount. To do this, the employer has to send the employee (me) a milestone removal request. When you receive this request, it comes with the following message:

Once you approve the request, the milestone will be removed from the project. If you decline, the milestone will remain unchanged. However, it’s likely your employer will initiate a dispute process and may leave a negative review.”

So essentially, if you read between the lines here, Freelancer are telling you that failure to accept this change (regardless of what the change is) will likely result in the employer giving you negative feedback.

I subsequently ended up on another page and found this:

Please note, the only way to gain feedback and reputation is to be paid through Freelancer.com. The higher your reputation, the higher you will appear in the bid list for future projects. 
Freelancers with the highest reputation are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year!
Remember to communicate regularly with the employer. Lack of communication is the leading cause of problems.

Even when they are trying to sell you the idea of joining Freelancer, they are still trying to stop you from taking money or work off-site. I can understand this from a business perspective but shouldn’t customer support be the priority? This company is so focused on earning money that their moral compass spins Beyblade (90s reference).

Assume that Freelancer will not support you, no matter how right or wrong you may be, because chances are they won’t!

Finding Solid Work

Freelancer

image via Tech Juice

Obviously, the main goal of any freelancer is to find solid work. Going from project to project, achieving very little experience or money is not a great long-term plan. When you first join, you’re going to be slightly disadvantaged but everyone starts off in the same position. In this section I’m going to share some tips for finding solid work.

1. Flesh out Your Profile

This one should go without saying. If your profile is blank, you don’t have a picture, you haven’t uploaded any examples of your work into your portfolio and you haven’t worked a single project yet, then you’re unlikely to find any long-term work. Take some time to really sell yourself! If you don’t have examples of any work then write some. I simply used previously written blog posts or university essays as mine. Simply edit them, make them presentable, and then upload them. It’s really that simple.

2. Take Advantage of Freelancer Offers

On top of charging you fees per project, Freelancer also has the audacity to limit site functionality to those unwilling to pay for a membership. When you’re starting out on Freelancer, using the free membership is going to be extremely challenging. You only get 8 bids and it takes about 90 hours for just 1 bid to regenerate. However, they will often offer trial memberships for new members and if they do, take it! I got about 300 bids with my trial membership. Just remember to go on and deactivate the auto-renewal. I simply set a reminder on my calendar for the day before it would renew and then I cancelled it.

If there aren’t any trial memberships available, I would recommend paying for one month of membership. Starting out on Freelancer is all about building up a reputation and with 8 bids, that’s going to be nearly impossible. Look at it this way, you’ll likely use up all 8 bids on your first day and in order for you to regenerate all 8, you need to wait 30 days!!! Obviously the bids regenerate one at a time so you won’t be completely without bids but getting work with a blank profile is challenging and you really do need as many bids as possible.

3. Start from the Bottom

Step 3 is unfortunately not a fun one. When you’re new to Freelancer and have zero reviews, you’re going to have to do some boring-ass work. Not only is it boring but it pays practically nothing. You need to just look at it as an investment. As long as you’re making enough money to at least cover your membership (if you had to pay for one) and your fees, then do anything you can. Find work that is simple and quick!

My advice would be to go for small pieces of work that require little to no time. Even if you do them for free, most reviews are done per project so if you do 5 or 6 small projects that take maybe two or three hours then you’ll already be off to a great start. This is the only time I’d suggest working for the middle men (something we’ll touch on in a moment). Ideally, you want to get each small piece of work from a different employer but make sure that it is related to the work that you want to do. For example, if you want to write creatively, don’t do SEO or copywriting. Do creative writing! Only move to other areas if you’re struggling to find any work at all.

4. Demonstrate your Ability

Working through Freelancer is one way to demonstrate you writing ability (assuming that that is the area of work you’re doing) but you need sources from outside the website as well. The more ways that you can demonstrate your passion for your work, the more likely it is that people will hire you for more long-term projects. If you’re planning on doing blog writing, then start a blog.

I have three blogs on the go at the minute: this one, my mental health/travel blog and a random weed blog. So I cover a range of different topics. If you don’t have the time or energy to start your own blog then you need to at least contribute to an already existing blog. If you need a way to do this then follow this link and you can write a guest post on my travel blog. Then at least you can send evidence of your work.

Similarly, if you’re trying to enter a niche area of writing, you need to demonstrate a passion for it. I regularly contribute to a movie review site called Movie Babble, where I’ve written about Braveheart and Star Wars movies. Why? Because I love writing about movies and it’s the area I hope to one day work in. Even if you only write one guest post somewhere, it’s just another piece of evidence that demonstrates your ability and passion.

5. Avoid the Middle Men

Now, this one is going to seem a little strange and ultimately, you may choose to ignore this step depending on the sort of work you wish to be involved with. The “middle men” are employers who are part of an agency. Working for them is going to pay very little, involve incredibly dull work and rarely benefit your exposure (if at all). This is how the middle men work:

They bid on as many jobs as they can find (sometimes on other websites). They then hire people like you to do the work, paying you half (sometimes less) of what they are getting paid. Typically, they give you multiple pieces of work involving various types of writing and payment is usually delayed quite drastically. You then get one review for 6 or so pieces of work while their profile gets a positive review from you and from the original employer. This then boosts their profile and allows them to get more and more projects.

I suggest avoiding these people for two reasons. A) They are shady as fuck! That’s not really a reason but I felt like I should mention it. As I said a moment ago, payments are always delayed, you’re paid very little and they are awful at leaving reviews. When you’re starting out, it can be a handy place to start but once you’ve already received several reviews, you need to move away. You can get solid work from such people but you will not make much money doing so. B) Allowing these people to win more and more project bids means there is less and less work going directly to Freelancers. It just creates more of a long-term problem.

6. Build Relationships

When you’re starting out, you’ll find that you build relationships with people. If they only offer you pennies for work and they are nothing more than a stepping stone then just forget about it and move on…but if you’re writing frequently for them and you know they’ll need more work in the future then don’t be afraid to ask for more money. For example, if you had written for the same employer for a few months because the work was pleasant enough but the pay was a little less than what you needed. Wait until you’ve completed a project and when they offer you a new one, simply state that you can only do it for an increase in payment.

Similarly, if you work for someone and the work isn’t incredibly boring but the payment isn’t great, provided it isn’t taking up too much of your time, it can be useful to continue doing the work. To give you an example, when I first started out and had reached the stage of clawing my way out of the mud, I got work writing blog posts about Pompeii, Italy. My employer and I got on well, I did everything to his guidelines and met all expectations and as I enjoyed writing about the topic, I continued to do so. Was I getting rich? No…but I was still getting paid, still getting reviews and creating more examples of my work, ultimately creating a higher level of exposure.

Now, I’m working once again for the same employer but this time I’m writing information on Ancient Roman structures for a Rome guide app. I love learning about history and Rome is one of my favourite places in the world so the opportunity is excellent. Not only that, but once it’s completed and released, I can download the app and demonstrate it as my work.

7. Exposure

Exposure isn’t as big an issue when you’re first starting out. That being said, the more published work that you can get your name attached to, the better. This is usually a problem when you’re starting out as most of the work isn’t related to you. You might be doing someone’s psychology homework (true story) or gathering information on types of violins (also a true story). So in these instances you’re not going to be involved with the process beyond supplying your work.

However, if people are asking you to write blog posts or something similar, then getting your name somewhere on the website (or at least getting a link that you can send future potential employers) is a vital step. That adds to the previous point of developing relationships with your employers. If you can get to know them and ask for your name to be credited somewhere (even if it means you’re paid slightly less) then it’s worth doing.


Thanks for reading! Are there any other insights I can offer you about freelancer work (particularly on Freelancer) or do you have any questions? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

The Quarter Life Crisis!

As I near the age of 25, I’ve come to realise that there is an aspect of life that nobody warns you about. I don’t think any adult as I was growing up ever mentioned their 20s as being a time of horror or confusion. We always hear about the clichéd mid-life crisis where in the movies someone in their late 40s/early 50s randomly decides to dye their hair or buy a motorbike. But what about the quarter-life crisis…why is that never mentioned?

Perhaps you’re wondering what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve never heard the term before and you’re wondering how anyone could have a crisis at the age of 25. Surely I’m just being dramatic, right? Well, I wish (and perhaps even hope) that that is indeed the case. Sadly, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that I am moving across the border from “young adult” to “adult”. This isn’t a friendly border that greets you with flower necklaces (or Leis) and champagne. No, this is a hostile border with armed guards and vigorous, even invasive searches. It marks a change: one where you begin to realise that you’re not that young anymore. I mean if you compare yourself to others, you may seem young but you know in your heart that there are doors closing behind you that will never be open again…and it’s a little terrifying.

The Hair!

Mid Life Crisis

image via WordPress

So what is actually going on? Well, a receding hairline for one. That’s right, the male-pattern baldness gene which I always knew was inevitably coming my way has finally been activated: Similar to a Treadstone agent from the Bourne movies. One of the worst things about this is that once you become aware of it, you feel like it’s constantly getting worse. I’ve always had thick hair and after a few months of not getting it cut, I usually feel like I’m wearing a door-mat on my head. Yet as I near the 3-month mark I can run my hands through my hair and notice how unusually thin it is. It feels wispy and it serves to remind me of what my grandparent’s hair was like not long before their death.  Many people can go bald and own it but I have an abnormally large head and baldness would not suit me. I have the perfect comparison picture which I’m going to upload above. In fact, since you’re reading this, you’ve already seen it!

The Teeth

Mid Life Crisis

image via Luxtimes

My teeth have started to become a problem as well. I’ve always regretted not getting braces because my bottom teeth are all over the place but not quite erratic enough to create any medical issue…or at least they weren’t. When I first started writing this post (about a month ago) I had been suffering from wisdom tooth pain for 6 months. Not from one tooth or two teeth but three wisdom teeth. Luckily my dentist assures me that they’re just moving but aren’t creating any long-term damage. I still have this fear that my teeth are all moving like continents and that the removal of wisdom teeth (if it eventually happens) won’t change that without braces (which cost a small fortune and would look bizarre on a 25 year old balding man!

The Body

Mid life crisis

image via YouTube

I’ve also found that going to the gym has started to become more difficult. Where I used to be able to laze around for months, only moving off the sofa to eat, wash, use the bathroom, sleep and then return to the gym with a similar level of strength. I now find that even when I’m regularly going to the gym, my strength isn’t improving. This could be down to diet but if anything my diet has improved: I’ve cut out refined carbs as much as possible and I certainly eat less junk food. I’ve barely touched alcohol so far this year and my drug intake has also been drastically lower. By all accounts my gym game should be the best it has ever been! Yet even finding the motivation to go is a challenging endeavour!

This doesn’t even touch upon the sore feet and legs I get from going down the couple of flights of stairs from the flat to the street outside. I can run quite happily and my legs barely suffer (at least that was the case the last time I went for a run) but small walks seem to rip the energy right out of me.

Another thing is my metabolism. I’ve always had an incredibly high and efficient metabolism and my flatmate used to describe me as “carb-resistant” because I could live of carbohydrates and not put on any weight…but over the last 6 months or so, my metabolism has been starting to slow. In truth, this could be due to a number of things but part of my always knew this day would come. I’ve joked about it with people in the past: about how one day it will all just hit me and those chippies for lunch and bags of sweet and sugary drinks that I consumed over the course of two decades will suddenly take their toll.

The Mind

Mid life crisis

image via WakingTimes

A quarter-life crisis isn’t limited to just physical effects though. I find myself feeling mental side effects as well. These are most likely due to my sudden awareness of the physical aspects but it’s still all a bit bizarre. I’ve never really been a night owl by any means. I mean on nights out I can stay up as late as anyone but on a day-to-day basis I’ve always leaned more towards an early night (unless I’m binging a new game like Assassin’s Creed). Recently, this seems to be even more the case as I find myself waking up earlier and going to bed earlier. As of this morning, I was naturally awake at 6:58 and up working by 8.

Of course now that I’m living in Spain I should have adjusted to having siesta in the heat of the afternoon (which is a whole other topic on its own). Instead, I find myself feeling pretty awake until about 5 and then the rest of the evening I can barely function due to sheer tiredness.

That doesn’t even cover the other impacts that aging has brought on. Where I used to be able to binge TV shows and films, I find myself getting bored. In truth, this could perhaps be a positive change as I spend WAY too much of my time watching movies and TV shows…but when I’m going to be bored regardless, at least I could stick a film on that I’d seen a million times already and still enjoy it.

The Money

Mid life crisis

image via The Oklahoma Eagle

Now, before I start discussing money it is important to realise that some stereotypes are based on facts and as a Scottish person, yes, I tend to be quite tight with my money. I can think of many examples through my life where I chose not to buy something simply because I didn’t want to spend my own money. Granted, the opposite of this has also been true where impulse has led to me returning from work with a Playstation 4 (which I returned the next day).

Yet now, more than ever, I find myself thinking about everything I buy. My mind focuses on the work aspect i.e. how much work do I need to do in order to cover the cost of what I’m buying. Do you have data limits set on your phone? I have similar limits mentally set on my bank and when I reach a certain level of cash alarm bells ring. Again, this isn’t perhaps entirely a negative development but it does make me full super old. It’s important to realise that I’m not a mature person. I have a bag of googly eyes in my bag that will be getting attached to inanimate objects in the near future!

The Career

Mid life crisis

image via Everyday Author

An additional mental aspect that hits you around this age is your career. When you’re aged 15, 18, 21, even 23, you feel like you’ve “got time”. You’ve got time to go to university, you’ve got time to start a career from the bottom and work your way up, you’ve got time to decide where you want to be in life and put some sort of a plan into action. Time, time, time, time, time! As you near 25, you soon begin to realise that many people already have this plan: they’re working in a job that is taking them towards their chosen destination, they’ve built up a CV with managers who will give them references. Up until recently, one of my references on my CV was the shop where I did my paper round for 5 years!

This fact sort of sends you into an existential crisis of sorts where you start to realise that you aren’t that great at anything. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an author (a dream I’ve since circled back to), then I wanted to be an entrepreneur (until I realised I have the charisma of a log!), then it was a clinical psychologist (until I realised that you needed to have a ton of experience before getting into an entry level psychology job) and so I settled on becoming a police officer (until I realised that I love drugs and strongly disagree with the drug laws in my country). So perhaps it is some form of regression that has me once again knocking on the doors of authorship in search of a career!

The End

Mid life crisis

image via Behance

Strangely, despite my life not nearing its end (not that any of us actually know that…but we can hope) I do find myself considering the mortality of others. I’ll see the parents of school friends and be shocked, even speechless, at how much older they look. When you grow up with people, you never look at them and think “wow, he’s aged drastically since those days when we used to use sticks as pretend lightsabres!” but when you see someone’s parent after some amount of time, it sort of hits you like a brick wall.

This of course then leads you to considering the mortality of other people: siblings, parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends, pets…pets especially! My dog is like 12 this year and my last dog died at the age of 13. It’s a little worrying! There is a moment every now and again where I genuinely worry that any day now I’m going to look in the mirror and be unable to recognise myself. What if I’m actually sitting in a home for the living dead right now and I’ve lost all my memories from the summer of 2018 onwards? I look around and don’t recognise a single person, where I am, my own possessions…myself. Do I feel angry? Upset? Cheated? If you lose all those memories and die without them…have you really lived?

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!

Mid life crisis

image via Genius

I was going on that but it seemed a little dark and gloomy. Allow me to clarify that I’m not regularly fearing the great abyss and the general aging process isn’t what scares me…rather it’s our inability to focus on the present that causes time to appear to whizz by. Time is merciless, it’s ruthless, and it doesn’t waver or flutter for anyone. You can’t tame time: it’s like a winding, powerful, flooded river which froths over sharp rocks and cascades down giant waterfalls. You’re riding along on an inflatable ring, watching as each sight goes by, wishing that you could get a few moments longer to admire the view…but each moment you waste struggling against the power of the river only causes you to miss more!


Thanks for reading! Have any of you hit the dreaded quarter-life crisis? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

My First Psilocybin (Magic Mushroom) Experience!

So today (or at least the day I wrote this), after many, many years of building up to being in the right frame of mind, I’m going to experience a magic mushroom trip. I’m writing this prior to taking anything so that you can understand my frame of mind and my expectations. To let you know exactly what my plan is, I have liquid psilocybin and I’ll be taking the equivalent of 1 gram of magic mushrooms. If I begin to trip and it’s not too intense then I might take more with my maximum amount being 2 grams. I’d imagine I’ll probably stick to the 1 gram for today: Testing the waters, so to speak.

I’ve never taken any psychedelics before. I’ve experienced minor trips on MDMA after taking slightly too much (one time I thought I was flying a plane and the other I felt like I was in Assassin’s Creed) but this will be my first time properly delving into this realm. I’ve taken a range of precautions to ensure I have not only a safe trip but an enjoyable one.

For example, I have a reliable person babysitting me (or more accurately, being sober minded and in the same flat just in case I hit a bump in the road). I’ve also written a note to myself explaining that the trip is temporary and that if I start thinking negatively, I should carry out one of several steps. I have a ton of chilled and happy music on my phone that I’m going to listen to at least for the start of the trip to keep me in a positive mind-set.

I’m going to have a notepad with me wherever I am just in case I feel like taking notes but since I have no real experience with tripping, I have no idea what I’ll feel like doing or even be capable of doing. I’ve read up on the topic rather extensively so I understand (as best as one can without having experienced it oneself) what I should feel during the trip. What do I hope to accomplish? At this stage, my only real aim is to experience the trip. If all goes well then I’ll up the dose next time in search of a more spiritual experience. I guess I’ll see you on the other side!

During the Trip

Trip

Image via Faze

So I’ve taken the equivalent of 1 gram of magic mushrooms. I can certainly feel the initial stages. The movement in my stomach was very noticeable at first. Not quite a pain but certainly a discomfort. What is really weird is that I am typing all of this without remotely looking at the keyboard. Somewhat strange that my typing ability has improved while on psychedelics. I DEFINITELY felt the waves that everyone has described. I wasn’t sure exactly what that would feel like. Waves? I wondered…but I totally get it. ‘Waves’ is just the perfect way to describe it.

I felt like I was getting the first set of visuals but that seems to have passed now. I was staring at the duvet cover hanging on the door which is grey with black swirls. To me, it looked as if the duvet cover was being pulled over the door from the other side. I stared at my pupils for a little bit in the mirror while I was in the bathroom peeing there and they almost seemed like they were pulsating but I don’t actually know if your pupils change at all on shrooms or whether it was just part of the visual effects.

I’ve reached the point that I sort of half expected whereby I’ve felt the waves and had some minor visuals but that’s it and I feel like I’ve already passed the peak. So I’m going to take the other 1g worth. I still feel like there is stuff going on but it does seem very minor and not hugely intense. People described it as feeling high or stoned which is very true but even that seems to have worn off a little bit. Like if I was smoking weed I’d smoke another joint by this level. Damn, I wish I had weed…

Dose #2

Trip

image via Tumblr

So here we go, I’ve already taken a 2nd dose. My slight concern (which mostly stems from my experience of taking MDMA) is that just as I take the 2nd dose, I’d fully come up on the first dose. Speaking of which, I can feel it starting to take effect already. I’m getting the same stomach pain (although it’s not so much pain as simply my stomach feeling like its doing stuff) and I’m getting very, very slight nausea but I’d eaten between doses so that’s to be expected.

After the Trip

Trip

image via Daily Express

So I stopped being able to type after my 2nd dose but I did occasionally make small notes in my notebook which I expanded on towards the end of the trip. Where the first dose had led to very minor visuals, the 2nd dose caused colours to change, the floor to move like a conveyor belt, cupboards to appear to breathe and other such things. I stared out the window of my flat a lot and simply watched the goings on outside. There is a square with a play park in it and I was amazed at these kids using their imagination. One of them was pretending to be injured while the other pretended to cast a spell. I felt like I was watching some intense moment of a film.

I did come close to darkness though. During the trip I couldn’t work out what a bad trip would feel like. It was almost like the very notion was beyond my imagination. However, one of the times I was looking out of the window,  I felt it. Luckily I managed to avoid the bad trip itself but here is how I described it in my notepad:

I felt like a bad trip just narrowly avoided me like an asteroid whizzing past the Earth. It was like the shadow was over me. It made me think of Venom in Spider-Man.”

I remember the bad trip almost felt like a life or a presence. If I follow on with the asteroid example, it was like the asteroid was alive and trying to hit Earth. Almost like a Galactus figure (Marvel reference) or something. It was like I could sense impending doom. Sort of like the bad trip eclipsed the sun. Luckily, as I mentioned, the feeling passed by and I was able to continue with my trip.

Back to the Fun Visuals

Trip

image via Today’s Christian Woman

I saw some pretty crazy visuals after the 2nd dose. The ones I made note of in particular were as follows:

  • I looked outside at a line of trees visible from the window of my flat. At this time of year they are incredibly green on a normal day but on shrooms this was even more the case. One tree in particular looked insane! It was almost like it was on fire but without burning (Moses eat your heart out). The flames weren’t red or orange but rather they were gold or silver. They reminded me of one thing in particular. If you’ve ever driven on a hot, dry day you occasionally see puddles that aren’t there. It was like the tree was glowing and burning but with these puddles rather than fire.
  • There is a clock on the wall in the living room which I found myself staring at for what felt like a long time (it probably wasn’t). The clock was like a planet being bombarded with colourful dust which made me think of like solar radiation. Everything other than the clock was almost blurred by this dust/radiation but the clock itself was crystal clear.
  • I had lined up some photos from the Hubble Telescope to view during my trip. I enjoy looking at these photos sober-minded but I figured staring into the universe might be quite fun under the influence of psilocybin. It was certainly an experience. I found that the pictures not only changed colour but also appeared to move. At times it felt like I was watching a live stream of some distance galaxy. The fun thing was that new aspects of the images would appear such as stars I hadn’t noticed before. It became a little too intense so after 5 or so photos I decided to move on.

Embracing the Darkness

Trip

image via Science News

I found myself (after the peak of the 2nd dose) going to bed. Not to sleep but rather to meditate. My eyes were super sensitive to light and even with an eye mask on and my eyes closed, my brain was still detecting too much light. I closed the blinds and all the doors, put the eye mask on, closed my eyes and found myself still not in complete darkness. I could feel myself being drawn towards the geometric swirl that to me resembled a black hole. As I drifted towards and into it, a calming, quiet darkness enveloped me and I felt at ease. I was listening to a Sam Harris meditation from YouTube which I turned off about 5 minutes in because it was actually more distracting than silence.

Unfortunately, silence opened me up to hearing neighbours arguing or at least talking very loudly. Music and voices were too much for my brain so I decided to put some white noise on. The static was actually very relaxing and the strange thing was that it started to sound like a waterfall.

Eventually, when the shrooms were really beginning to wear off, I decided to just look through photos and videos on my phone while curled up in bed. Hunger soon overwhelmed me and getting out of bed marked the end of my trip. I still felt the presence of the drug in my brain but there were no physicals effects or visuals.

Reflecting on the Experience

Trip

image via Flickr

As I mentioned at the start, the purpose of this trip wasn’t to blow my brain or search for a spiritual experience. It was simply a test run to allow myself to adjust to the effects of the drug. Now that I know the stages and have an idea of the feelings, what works for me and what doesn’t, I can increase the dose during my next trip to 2.5/3 grams worth of magic mushrooms.

I would love to try it out in nature. Perhaps not in Spain because I think the feeling of being in “unknown” territory would play on my mind a little but in Scotland I can think of several locations that would be isolated enough to comfortably take shrooms out in nature. I think that I’ll also be sure to have weed (in the form of pre-rolled joints) during my next trip. The comedown wasn’t horrible at all but I think it would have been drastically improved be a little smokey smoke.


Thanks for reading! Have you ever tried psilocybin? Is an experience that intrigues you? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Blog Changes: Say Goodbye to Travel and Mental Health Talk

Hello all,

This is just a quick post to update you all on the topics of my blog. As you’ve probably realised, my blog posts are a bit all over the place. Sometimes I talk about travel, sometimes I talk about mental health, sometimes I talk about Star Wars or Assassin’s Creed…it’s a bit of a mess. While this blog is mostly for fun and up until recently I didn’t really care about generating a following, I’ve decided that in order to further develop my career as a writer, I unfortunately need to give in to the machine, to the rat race and to creating a more central blog for each of my major topics.

As such, this blog here (Ranting & Raving) will remain mostly the same. If you’re interesting in my weird theories, random lists, discussions about games and films, ETC then you’ll still find all of that here. It will essentially remain a blog that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

However, if you want more insight into mental health issues and travel then those posts will now be published on my other blog: Travels, Tribulations & Ambitions. My aim for this blog is to go beyond it simply being my own ravings and instead make it a focus of mental health and travel: essentially a space where people can read about my experiences, my plans for the future or my coping strategies for my anxiety but share their own stories. My experience is limited but I want anyone and everyone who has suffered or is suffering due to mental health issues to have a place they can go for comfort or assistance. As well as being able to share travel suggestions. D

So if you have any stories you wish to share or any advice you think people should know, then head over to my new blog. I appreciate anyone who follows that blog as well as this one, especially in these early stages of trying to develop it.

As always, don’t hesitate to comment here or follow me on Twitter!

Peace!

Anxiety: A Day in the Life of…

Note: This is a re-post. I accidentally deleted the original post when I was trying to take it offline for editing. So if you’ve read this before, nothing new has been added!

 

Anxiety! A word that seems to be popping up more and more often but what is it? Well it’s a pain in the ass to say the least (not literally…well…sometimes). This isn’t going to be a scientific explanation of anxiety or a representation of the sorts of anxiety that people can experience. This isn’t even going to be a guide on how to work out if you have anxiety issues.

Quite simply, I’m going to walk you thought my anxiety, the good times, the bad times and the many ways I’ve tried to deal with it (both successfully and less so). So if you have anxiety this post could be useful in terms of presenting some new coping strategies and general life adjustments. If you don’t have anxiety and perhaps don’t fully understand what it is, hopefully this will help.

To save you some time, I’ve added titles to separate this longer than expected post. If you have zero interest in my ramblings about my backstory and history with anxiety then feel free to skip down to the title named ‘So what is anxiety?’ Here is where I share what I experience in terms of anxiety and then go on to share the techniques I’ve used to help decrease its effect on my life (the tips are pretty much at the very bottom so feel free to scroll down.

 

Origin Story Time

I’ve always been a shy person. My earliest school reports consisted of “knows the answers but doesn’t share them” or “needs to speak up more” to “doesn’t engage in group activities”. While most people grow out of this, my generally introverted nature and shyness clung to me like glue. I don’t subscribe to this idea that you’re either an introvert or an extrovert.

I think anyone can display characteristics of both at different times. That being said, I was definitely at the polar end of the scale at school. Outside school, I would have been seen as an extrovert. I never experienced anxiety though. Nerves? Yes. Shyness? Yes. Preferring to stay somewhere to read or play my Gameboy rather than go socialise? Yes. All pretty natural experiences that I’m sure many of us went though.

Even in high school (aged 12-18) I didn’t get any anxiety. I was bulled a hell of a lot and didn’t want to go to school but I never felt a single moment that I could identify now as me being anxious. I could sit exams completely relaxed (perhaps too relaxed), I could speak in front of classmates about as well as the general school populous.

I do think that to some extent the bullying I faced is what’s left me a little “off” mentally. I grew up in a small town where if you hadn’t left by the age of 18, chances are you never would. It was a lovely place (if you were raising a family or on your death bed) but everyone knew everyone. Yet somehow I managed to get randomly attacked on multiple occasions. Always by people who were drunk.

I started to fear walking down the high street. I always compared my town to the film I Am Legend. It was fine during the day but as soon as the sun began to set…these creatures would come out from the dark to wreak havoc. I started to worry whenever I going somewhere alone at night, even by bus. Pathetic, right?

I started to fear people in general. Going to the shop used to make me sweat and if the person at the checkout spoke to me my heartrate would go through the roof. My conversation was usually limited to one word answers. I would wait as long as I possibly could before going to get my haircut or to the dentists.  I got ill a lot and couldn’t go to the doctor. There were times I was convinced I had cancer and somehow, social interaction was worse than death.

I consider myself to be a rational-minded individual. I usually think with my mind rather than my emotions. Despite there being no logic in it, I just couldn’t go out into the world where people were. I used to walk my dog off paths into the middle of nowhere. Up hills and through forests, just wherever I thought people wouldn’t be.

The most annoying thing was that I knew it was illogical. I knew that nothing would happen, that speaking to people wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes I could even convince myself that the next time I did, I’d ooze charisma. Of course what actually would happen is that I’d freeze. It’s like every person was a T-Rex and the only way I could avoid them was to stay still. My mum used to worry about me but whenever she confronted me about it, I always went on the defensive.

Looking back, I think if I’d been honest back then about it, my life would be quite different now. That’s neither here nor there. It wasn’t until I had finished high school and actually started university that I started to notice that I was even worse than I originally thought. I moved to a city where my cousin was at university. This guy was my idol growing up and when I moved there, he still was. After doing modules on psychopathy at university, I can tell you that this dude displayed far too many psychopathy traits. If you have anxiety, here’s a piece of advice. Do NOT hang around with toxic people. I learnt this a little too late. So as a result I spent 3 years of my life (2 of them living with the guy) with toxic people in my life.

I spent 3 of my 4 years at university hearing about how I was too quiet, I came across as weird, that I was ruining people’s image. That’s right! My cousin wanted me to improve my social skills so that he didn’t look bad. I was frequently given the classic lines of “talk more, it’s easy” or “there’s nothing to be nervous about” and of course “you need to stop being shy”. What these lovely human beings didn’t know was that every social event where I was sober was like hell to me. My problem was so bad that up until the point of being drunk (and I mean way past tipsy) I couldn’t socialise. People who had only met me on nights out couldn’t believe how quiet I was.  I guess I gave off a bit if a serial killer vibe.

So it’s fair to assume that my virginity stay intact until my 2nd year of university. Not that my friends knew that. By this stage I was already known as “King Virgin” without them even knowing that I was. It’s difficult to be intimate with someone when you can’t really speak to them. My socialising was even worse with women (clichéd, I know). My 1st and 2nd year of university were around the time (the 2nd time in my life) when suicide became a very easy way out. I know what you’re thinking; it’s a ridiculous reason to want to die. My issue wasn’t that I wanted to die. I didn’t. It’s more that I couldn’t see how it was possible for me to live. How was I going to get a job? How would I travel? How could I do anything without speaking to people?

 

The Attacks

Funnily enough, my anxiety hadn’t even peaked yet. As I mentioned earlier, I had never had an issue with taking exams in school. Suddenly at university I felt the most uncomfortable I’d ever been in my life (at that point). Somehow I got through first year fine. I mean I’d missed a ton of classes but not enough to raise any red flags with the university.

Sometime in 2nd year, during an exam, I finally snapped. The first full-blown anxiety attack I’d ever had. On top of my anxiety, I have a fear of being sick. I mean it’s not really a fear but more the fear of drawing attention to myself by being sick. Although, I do completely hate throwing up and I avoid it at all costs. So you can imagine that in an exam room with about 60 people in it, how that could be an issue.

My heart was racing. At times I actually thought I was about to die. Was this a heart attack? My breathing was impossible to control but I tried my best. My hands were sweaty. Should I leave? Should I raise my hand and tell someone I need to go? No, then everyone will look at me. Plus, if I do that I’ve accepted that I’m going to be sick or pass out. Speaking of passing out, I did feel pretty faint. Where was the nearest bin? Could I get to that in time if I felt it coming up? I need to focus on something else. I’ll look at the clock. Oh God, I have a full 2 hours left and the earliest I can leave is in an hour and a half. I haven’t even written the first paragraph yet.

Maybe if I focus on the work it will go away. No, that isn’t helping either. By this point I’m screaming internally. I just want it to stop. At times I stopped breathing all together. At others I was breathing frantically. The films always say to take slow deep breaths (incorrectly) but that doesn’t seem to be helping at all. My body was literally shaking. I was going from hot to cold then hot again. I was sweating more and more. If this was death, I figured at least this would all be over. Maybe I should just get up and leave. Do I really need a degree? No, I’m sure I can find something else to do. Maybe I can rationalise with my brain. I can re-sit this exam if I fail so there is literally no pressure.

Regrettably, I suffered through far too many exams (about a year-a year and a half) before I finally forced myself to go see a GP. I needed something I could take before an exam but not long term. I was completely opposed to being on any long-term medication. Why? Well, we’ll get to that later. I met my GP (literally the grumpiest and least helpful I’ve ever met). He told me that I just needed to relax.

That’s right, my GP, a man charged with handling the health of the public told me to relax. Let’s just say that all the advice he gave me was about the same. He prescribed me propranolol which I was supposed to take for a month to see how it helped. I had told him I didn’t have any anxiety attacks outside the exams but he insisted.

Needless to say, I ignored him. The instructions clearly stated that they could be taken prior to the anxiety attack inducing situation. So that’s how I used them and it did work. I still felt the deep-rooted terror bubbling but my heart stayed calm (the purpose of the drug) and so I could actually get on with my exams. Otherwise I would usually spend an hour having an attack and then the 2nd hour would be me doing the exam itself. The only other time I used propranolol was on planes where I found I also got anxiety attacks. I’m not scared of flying but being crammed next to strangers really sets my anxiety off.

 

Improvement

When I got into my final year of university, I felt pretty amazing. I had a girlfriend, I socialised a lot more than I used to. To be completely honest, I’d been exposed to the drug scene. I would go to one club and take MDMA, party hard, smoke some weed and go to bed. Those were some of the best nights out of my life. Now, I do not preach that MDMA isn’t dangerous. It certainly can be.

That being said, I love it. I take it maybe once every 3 months at most now but back then it was once or twice a week. You can judge me but MDMA opened my eyes to a world I’d never seen before. I started exploring other drugs, reading about them, watching documentaries, asking people about their experiences. I also had a girlfriend which was new to me.

So life was going very well. I could go to the shops, get my haircut, etc without freaking out. I was still incredibly nervous around new people but I figured that’s something I’d just have to get used to. The issue was that I was about to finish university. I had no plans and knew I was going to have to move back to the black-hole of a town I thought I’d escaped.

One of the things I loved about university was all the different opinions. You could discuss any topic and chances are somebody would have a completely different point of view. My hometown wasn’t remotely like that. Bringing new ideas into their world was like walking into a school with a gun. I had some friends who weren’t like that but only a few.

 

The Great Depression

Here began my year of unemployment. I was in the previously mentioned black-hole. I was living with my anti-drug parents. I was sleeping in a bed that was about 6 feet above the floor and involved climbing a ladder to get into. My anxiety came back in ways I couldn’t imagine. Some days I didn’t leave my room; other days I would just walk my dog for the entire day to escape.

I’d purposefully get lost in the woods just to take longer getting back. I tried to go to the gym which was probably the only thing that helped me keep my head on remotely straight. My parents wanted me to pay rent (which of course is completely fair) since they thought I was claiming unemployment benefits. So I paid them money every month out of my savings because I couldn’t go on job seekers allowance.

You see I knew that while on job seekers allowance you have to take whatever job you are given. What if I was given a waiting job or a bartender or a cashier? The thought alone made me feel sick and want to cry. To be clear, I I’m not against working. I’m a hard worker but the social element is just impossible for me.

I wanted something I could do and I needed to start earning money. It’s not that I wanted to be lazy or just couldn’t be bothered. The way I always describe it to be people is that it’s like someone else is battling me for control of my mind. Sometimes, even when I have all the will to do something, I just can’t do it.

For example, I missed a lot of classes at university and I knew their policy for sending warning e-mails. I could never bring myself to check my e-mails because I worried there would be some degree of confrontation in e-mail form from the university. Thing is, I simply had to reply with an excuse in order to get out of it. Yet what I did always made matters worse because if they didn’t hear from you, they took it further.

So I created a lot of my own problems simply through an inability to act. It was the same with work. I wanted a job, I needed a job but I just couldn’t do it. After a year of burning through literally all of my savings, I found a job I could do. Costco were looking for stockers. Not luxurious but it was something I could handle.

 

The Turning Point

What I didn’t realise was that this job was going to represent a turning point in my life. Don’t get me wrong, the interviews and first few months were hard for me on a mental level. Within the first month I almost had to phone in sick because even though I was right outside the store, I’d had a minor anxiety attack on the way in and as a result felt incredibly sick. Costco has a 90-day probationary period where they can basically just fire you for no reason.

I started in summer and by Christmas I was starting to get the hang of things. My girlfriend and I had broken up and I didn’t really have any desire to get back into “the game” as such. I realised though that I still needed to escape the black-hole I was living in.

I hadn’t taken any holidays yet so I applied to take a month off to go travel around Thailand. If you happened to read my post, you’ll know that this ended up being a trip around Cambodia. Long story short: this trip was incredible. It had moments where I was at my absolute worst in terms of long feelings of anxiety but it also forced me so far out of my comfort zone that when I came back, I felt lighter, I guess.

I don’t want to say that it changed me because this isn’t a cheesy movie. It did give me positive and negative experiences though which ultimately altered my view of things at a sub-conscious level. So when I got back from the trip I found my anxiety was minimised. I noticed it more at work but it soon spread to my personal life.

At work, I found that I could work as a cashier without any problem. I soon became quite comfortable in the role actually and would frequently volunteer to go cover when they were short staffed. Something I never thought I would do. I also volunteered to go on trips. Yup, Costco sent me to London to work at a store down there. Something I’d have worried about before. I had been using an online platform to try to meet women. Before Christmas I had been talking to one in particular. We had planned to meet but both of us bailed so ultimately we scrapped it. My anxiety was just too bad and I couldn’t do it. But in the essence of feeling confident, I sent her a message about meeting up and we did.

This woman was incredible. We clicked in ways that I’ve honestly never connected with another human being before in my life. By the 3rd date I was actually worried that she might not be real. Had my mind just conjured up this wonderful human just to trick me into doing things? You see we both enjoyed the same stuff but the difference was that she would actually do it without hesitation.

So pretty soon we’d been to comedy clubs, nights out, parties, I’d met loads of her friends and hadn’t been overwhelmed with anxiety once. Sadly, she would soon be moving. As she moved away, I got sent to Paris to work at a Costco they were opening up. I was hollow when I realised that this woman who was everything I could ask for in a partner was about to leave my life, potentially forever.

In terms of my anxiety though, I was still at the top of my game. I spent a month in France working at the Costco there. I was regularly miles outside my comfort zone. I don’t speak French but I got a lot of roles supervising over the French staff and often had to be in charge of making decisions that would actually affect the store.

By the time I got back home, I was on fire. I was on good terms with all the mangers both in France and at home, I had been trained in pretty much every major part of the store, I was now training new starts who had just joined. The woman who I missed so much came back up to graduate and when we met, we decided not to throw it away. We’d never really discussed what would happen after she left before then.

 

This may all seem somewhat irrelevant to anxiety but I swear it’s leading somewhere!

 

So since my girlfriend and I wanted to stay together but now lived hundreds of miles apart, I did something I’d never imagined doing. I went down to visit her at her mum’s house. So I stayed there for a week. Luckily her mum was lovely but I’ve always had an issue with people’s parents. Not just girlfriends but actually anyone’s.

I always got anxiety because I was/am a fussy eater but I also hate being a pain so I often find myself in the middle of a dilemma. The experience as a whole was a lot of fun and I don’t think my anxiety was ever an issue. At this point we said the infamous L word but we also decided that we’d go to Amsterdam together on holiday. We both smoke weed so we figured it would be a fun place to visit.

 

The Next Level

To sum up Amsterdam: smoking weed in public areas with anxiety is not fun. We were there four days and most times when we smoked, the first hour or two I was in freak-out mode. I’d experienced this with weed to lesser extents but it was pretty full on. It wasn’t so much the weed as it was the environment.

In Amsterdam you have a mix of stoners and “lads”. The lads are getting drunk, being boisterous, and being the usual sort of rowdy cave-dwellers you would expect to find. This is usually what I fear on a night out so being super stoned and in the middle of it just threw me off.  It was an experience though and it was here that we made the decision that I’d move to Spain with her.

I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t have a wide range of skills to use and I’d never really had any desire to live in Spain. As I write this, I’ve been in Spain for nearly 5 weeks. I’m now back outside my comfort zone and my anxiety is definitely creeping back in.

The issue is that conversation for me is already incredibly difficult with people I don’t know well. So conversation with either people who speak a little English or through my mumbling attempts at speaking Spanish is downright awful. Some of my anxiety stems from a fear of ridicule and speaking a language badly falls into that category. The issue I face is that it’s too easy for me to stay in the flat. I work as a freelancer writer so I only need to leave to go to the shop.

This brings me onto my next issue. Doing things like going to the shop, things that normal people do without even thinking about it, are now back to being a big deal for me. I’ve basically accepted that I’ll have to wait until I go home at Christmas to get my haircut. I try and force myself into social situations because that’s the only way I’ll learn Spanish.

The thing is that I find it too easy to use my poor Spanish as an excuse not to speak. I’ve barely spoken any with people. I worry that I’ll spend too much time in the flat and my anxiety will creep back in. I’ll soon be back to as bad as I’ve ever been, especially since I’m not going to the gym either. In fact my exercise doesn’t go much further than walking to the very nearby shop.

It’s strange when you know that you’re about to fall into a pit but still don’t do anything to stop yourself. On the one hand, if I seize this opportunity to be outside my comfort zone but to gain from it like I did in Cambodia then I could come out a much healthier individual. The issue is doing just that. It’s like I’m balancing on the edge of a cliff: if I fall in one direction then I fall far. If I fall the other way then I am safe and can enjoy the wonderful view.

 

So what is Anxiety?

Don’t worry if you skipped all of that, I got carried away rambling about my past. It was only supposed to be a brief history. So what is anxiety? If you’ve never experienced it, it can be difficult to describe. Think about whenever you’ve done something that scared you. Maybe you’ve been on a roller coaster at a theme park or perhaps you’ve jumped out of a plane.

That feeling you get when you’re about to start and your stomach goes tight, your heart is beating faster than you thought was possible, your mind is racing through a million and one scenarios of how this could end horribly. Now imagine that you get that every time you speak to someone new or every time you have to go even slightly outside your very restricted comfort zone. Even worse, imagine that you feel that constantly.

The physical sides of anxiety can be bad but my biggest enemy is my own mind. You get caught in a spiral that just sends you further and further down. Imagine that you’re flying a plane and something starts going wrong. Nothing major but a little red light starts flashing. It’s easy to solve but your co-pilot starts freaking out. He presses buttons, he’s screaming at you, flailing around like a madman. Suddenly there are 5 or 6 new problems that are slightly bigger issues but it’s still possible to solve it. Unfortunately your co-pilot is still losing his shit. He’s made 8 lights flash now and he’s taken control of the plane and is trying to bring it down to land…on water. You have to solve this but how can you deal with your co-pilot and all these problems he’s created?

This can go on for a while and sometimes the plane crashes, sometimes the co-pilot jumps out the plane with his parachute and leaves you with all the problems, other times you manage to calm him down and bring the plane back into a smooth cruise with zero lights flashing. This can happen to me several times a day depending on what I’m doing. So I’ve tried various coping strategies which I’ll share with you now. I’ll also explain some of the ones I’ve still to try.

 

Tips and Tricks

1) Get rid of anyone in your life that actively tries to bring you down. This may sound petty and perhaps you wouldn’t want to but in all honesty, you notice a difference. When you can start to just be yourself and not worry about someone picking on your insecurities or trying to manipulate you or anything like that, your anxiety will be less prevalent. It also stands to reason that you should find people who are like you. I don’t mean people with anxiety (although it can help being with people who actually understand) but more people who share your interests. Life is easier when you can just be you.

 

2) Breathing exercises. If you get into a situation where you start to feel your anxiety beginning to bubble, there are tons of breathing techniques that people claim to work. Deep, slow breathing is NOT one of them! When you get near an anxiety attack, your body begins to take in more air. If you do it too quickly you start to hyperventilate. What you actually want to do is reduce your oxygen intake. One method is covering one nostril and breathing through your nose. This can work but it doesn’t control the breath-rate. My favourite and most effective is box breathing: breathe in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4 and then repeat. I notice the benefits pretty quickly but if you focus on it for a while, it’s also meditative and works wonders.

 

3) Speaking of mediation, this is another one I would recommend. Meditating a couple of times a week can help your brain de-stress. I’m not suggesting you “align your chakras” or go on a pilgrimage. Meditating is simply concentrating on a specific thing to allow your mind to focus and become clear. If you want to use it for spiritual purposes, you can. I basically use it to see my own mind and thought processes in a different way. I would highly recommend the 26 minute long Sam Harris guided mediation on YouTube. I’ll add a link at the bottom. It is perfect for beginners or those looking for a simple and direct meditation technique. You can actually use meditation when you’re feeling anxious but I personally find it nearly impossible to do.

 

4) You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I’m not going to lie, it can be difficult but it is all about small steps. It’s like going to the gym to build strength. You start on a weight and then you move up. As you move up it gets more difficult and you will struggle but after some time that weight becomes easier and then you move up again. It’s the same thing. Move into a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Accept beforehand that it will but know that you will get used to it. You may never feel 100% comfortable doing it but you will start to feel comfortable enough that it doesn’t freak you out quite as much.

 

5) Find a way to let loose. You need to find a way to let off steam. For me, it’s taking drugs. For the record, I’m not addicted, I don’t take drugs to melt my brain, I don’t take them because I “need” them. I take them responsibly because they can be a lot of fun. I’m not promoting the idea to you but for me, if I smoke some weed then I feel great. I laugh at some stupid shit or I come up with some crazy theories about films and then I sleep like a baby. If I take MDMA I dance to some good music, I chat about crazy shit to people I barely know and I have a lot of fun. I don’t get the “loss of control” feeling that alcohol can give. On MDMA I feel like myself just happier.

 

6) Another outlet for those of you who don’t think a therapist is a direction you want to go in, is a journal. I know! You probably don’t want to be a grown adult who keeps a diary. I’m not saying that you write in it every day. You don’t have to open with “Dear diary, today Justin…” I have kept one on my laptop for 7 years now. Whenever I have stuff on my mind, I go on, I mark the date and then I just empty my brain. I always write it as if someone will be reading it once I die. I share all my thoughts, feelings, and predictions for the world, what I’ve been doing. I literally just let everything out. Chances are nobody will ever see it. I have left random clues for people to find to get access to it.

For example, when I had a cancer scare last year (when I say cancer scare, I mean there was a lot of blood somewhere there shouldn’t have been and so I was tested for cancer) I didn’t want to tell anyone about my journal. In fact the only person who knows about it is my girlfriend and I’m pretty sure she’s forgotten. Anyway, I left an encrypted message on a page in a notebook for my brother. It had a simple to solve key but would have taken time and effort. It told him my laptop password, the document to open, the password for that and who was allowed to see it. Just write absolutely everything down and put a password on it so you never have to worry about somebody seeing it.

It also means you can go back and see what your frame of mind was like at a certain point in time. For instance, I can look back to 2011 to see all my high school drama, 2013 is my university bullshit; I can see what I was thinking and what I was doing. It’s interesting to see because obviously the human memory isn’t hugely reliable so being able to look back and see exactly what was going through your head 7 years ago is kind of trippy.

 

7) Stay away from caffeine! Some of you with anxiety may be fine. For me, it was actually what triggered my anxiety attacks (something I discovered years later). The caffeine basically causes your body to react in the same way it would from a natural anxiety attack. Your brain then notices these changes and as your conscious mind becomes aware of them, it does in fact cause an anxiety attack. So in essence, because you detect what seems like an anxiety attack, you get anxious and actually have one.

 

8) Personally, I would also say stay away from alcohol as much as you can. I find that alcohol is a very easy crutch to use. It can become too easy to just “get blitzed” in order to feel less self-conscious and ultimately less anxious. I find, however, that my anxiety has started to creep up when I feel myself losing control: Those moments where my actions don’t feel like my own but rather someone else’s. I still have the odd drink here and there but when I do drink to get drunk, it’s a lot less than what I used to consume.

 

9) Exercise can make an incredible difference. It may sound clichéd but it really does. You don’t have to aim to be a body builder but even just going for a run a few times a week or taking part in a sport will work wonders for you mind.

 

The Future

 

So I’m hoping to take a trip fairly soon that could possibly show drastic results. I don’t mean a physical trip but rather a drug-induced one. Magic mushrooms (or more specifically: psilocybin) has shown incredible results in treating depression and anxiety. More and more evidence is coming to light that not only is it more effective that pharmaceuticals but it has a fraction of the side effects, if any. This is going to be the start of my journey (depending on how it goes of course).

I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) smoking DMT which I plan on doing again but I want my first stop to be mushrooms. For those of you who are perhaps anti-drug or still have the high school anti-drug campaign fear tactics running around in your mind somewhere, you should know that it isn’t about a high. I’m not taking the drugs for fun or to escape reality.

I want to take them for the experience they can potentially provide.  You see, psilocybin reorganises the connections in your brain. One trip can completely alter one’s personality as it causes them to create new connections that don’t necessarily have the flaws the old ones did. People with anxiety and depression in studies have gone months feeling cured. Imagine if drug companies brought out a drug that had a few side effects but you only had to take it once every few months? It would be revolutionary.

Obviously, I haven’t tried them yet so I’m not speaking from personal experience. Maybe it doesn’t work for me or give me the experience I need. Maybe this is how I discover psychedelics aren’t for me. At least I’ll know that for sure and will have tried, rather than living through my life with a treatment growing right in front of me in nature.

I’ve spent years researching certain psychedelics: their history, effects, potential benefits, potential risks, advice on taking them, etc. So don’t be fooled into thinking this is a decision I came to lightly. Depending on how my mushroom trip goes, my girlfriend and I want to travel to South America.

Not primarily for this purpose but definitely to do it. We want to visit an ayahuasca retreat. For those of you unfamiliar, ayahuasca is basically a drinkable version of DMT. I will post a link at the bottom to an incredible introduction to it. It’s a mind-blowing drug that is not remotely recreational. This drug is a spiritual drug and is not to be taken lightly.

 

Further Info

 

If you have any questions or anything, don’t hesitate to comment below or even send me a message. I’m happy to share any of my experiences with anyone so if you have anxiety or just want to know more about it, my door is always open. Feel free to send me a private message if you have something you’d like to discuss that you don’t feel comfortable sharing publically. I’m always happy to offer whatever advice or insight I can. Don’t feel that you have to suffer through mental health problems alone! There are always people you can turn to!

 

This is a link to the Sam Harris guided meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OboD7JrT0NE

 

This one is to a previously banned TED talk by Graham Hancock about consciousness but he also discusses his experiences with ayahuasca: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0c5nIvJH7w

 

I’m also including a link to a Joe Rogan podcast where he discusses ayahuasca. If you haven’t heard of Joe Rogan or only know him from UFC or Fear Factor, he is an incredible human being. His podcast is the only one I listen to and some of the guests and topics they discuss are incredibly insightful and educational: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_fuE9La6Xg

Life in Spain for a Scotsman!

Having spent the first 24 years of my life living in Bonnie Scotland, the time eventually came for me to leave the nest. Growing up near Edinburgh, Scotland certainly has its perks but the miserable weather, the somewhat problematic drinking problem and the familiarity in itself soon became tiresome. So with that in mind, off to sunny Spain I went with no understanding of the language, no knowledge of the culture and without ‘Moving to Spain’ ever being on my to-do list. Luckily, I was moving there with my girlfriend who happened to be the polar opposite on all three of those points. So without further ado, here is my summary of my life in Spain so far!

The Language Barrier…

As I already mentioned, my grasp of Spanish didn’t extend particularly far past “Hola” before I moved out here. I’d always wanted to learn another language but had always lacked the motivation and the aptitude for picking one up. I had studied French for most of my high school life and had barely learned anything. One thing I commonly heard people say before I left Scotland was “It’s always easier to pick up a language when you live in the country”. Of course, this may very well be the case for anyone who socialises at a normal level but for someone who deals with social anxiety 24/7; it’s a little trickier than that.

…with a Scottish Accent

That being said, I’ve started to learn the basics. Duolingo and Rosetta Stone have been useful enough for a basic understanding. I have the good fortunate of living with my girlfriend who speaks Spanish practically fluently. So whenever I encounter something that just doesn’t make sense to me, she’s only an elbow’s nudge away! Of course, that isn’t the only language barrier. In Pamplona, most people who do speak English have learned it in school but even when they’ve had real world experience with the English language; it’s usually accompanied by an English accent. My Scottish accent isn’t even that strong as far as I’m aware. Yet many people have told me my accent is impossible to understand. One hilarious moment was having a group of American’s question whether I was speaking German or English.

Employment

Since finishing university, it had always been my plan to do a TEFL course and go to China or Japan or just somewhere far away from the UK to teach English. So with only a month or two between me deciding to move to Spain and actually moving, I managed to squash in a TEFL weekend. The weekend itself was incredibly helpful but I went all out and paid for the 140+ hour course. Meaning I still had 120 hours online stuff to complete. My plan for work was to spend the first couple of months living off my savings while I complete the TEFL course and then give private English lessons after my initially optimistic teaching assistant application was turned down on multiple occasions.

Of course it’s one thing to have a plan in your head and it’s an entirely different thing to act on it. As much as I want to eventually get around to finishing my TEFL course, I stumbled across a different way to earn money that would also not require a grasp of the Spanish language: freelance writing. I won’t go into huge detail about that as I’ve written another post on it already. However, what started off as hugely unsuccessful and extremely frustrating turned out to be my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’d always wanted to write and I am now earning more than I was working part-time with Costco in Scotland.

The only real issue with this is that the work isn’t necessarily steady. I have two projects for this month that will earn me enough to cover my time so far in Spain but what about next month or the month after that? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Things to Do

Pamplona itself is a decent size with what would seem like a relatively large student population. I just moved here from a small town which basically comprised of retirement homes, charity shops, churches and pubs. So anything near to a club would be an improvement. I was shocked to discover that actually Pamplona doesn’t have a great deal to do. We’ve been to numerous bars and a couple of the clubs and it just seems a little dull if I’m honest. One of the clubs did show potential but in order to get to the good music (in my opinion) you have to worm your way through a sweaty, testosterone-oozing mass of “lads, lads, lads”. You step outside and there is vomit left, right and centre.

I mean maybe this is the point in my life where I just put the drink down, forget the clubs, buy a pipe and do my crossword puzzles in a rocking chair. While the pipe part doesn’t sound so bad, I’m not quite ready for the rest. I guess I had the impression that Pamplona would be a bit more ‘hustle and bustle’. I mean this is the city where once a year people literally get chased by bulls down the street.

Surrounding Area

There certainly seems to be plenty to do in Spain itself. My girlfriend has repeatedly suggested we go to Barcelona for a weekend. We have plans to go skiing after Christmas in the nearby mountains bordering with France. As well as that, I’ve been dying to see some cave art, like that mentioned by Graham Hancock in his book Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind. It just so happens that the Cave of El Castillo is only a 3 hour drive away from here. So I definitely want to get around to doing that at some stage. We’re also not that far from the North Coast of Spain so there are a huge number of sea-side towns to visit.

Weed

As a partaker in the consumption of marijuana, I was relieved to hear that there exists a sort of loophole in Spain whereby it’s legal to own, smoke and even grow weed in the privacy of your own home. You’re not allowed to sell it or grow it where members of the public can see it but other than that you’re safe. To me, that translates as “it will be easy to get hold of weed” when in fact, it’s easier in Scotland! It doesn’t help that Pamplona is a very traditional city. Places like Barcelona have weed clubs where people go and smoke together whereas Pamplona still butchers bulls for sport and entertainment.

Pros

For starters, when I arrived here at the very end of September it was 29oC. To put that in perspective for anyone not from Scotland: the highest temperature EVER recorded in Scotland was 32.9oC and that was at the start of August. Average maximum temperatures for a Scottish summer are between 13oC-15oC. The weather in Pamplona stayed in the 20s up until about 2 weeks ago where it dropped to between 9oC and 12oC. Not to mention that the total number of days it has rained would fit into one week. While for Scotland the total number of days it rains per week is 7! So yeah, the weather is certainly a plus.

Another pro is the food. I’m somewhat of a fussy eater but going out for pinchos is great for me. There is always a meat option so I’d never go hungry. Following on from food is the drinks. I don’t mean soft drinks (we’ll get to that in the cons) but the alcoholic drinks. In Scotland, if you order a vodka and coke, you get this tiny measure that’s not even slightly more than what it’s supposed to be. They chuck a slice of lemon in and pour some semi-flat coke into the glass. When you’re at a club or bar here, each drink is like a work of art. The measures themselves are like twice that of Scotland, you get a lime rubbed round your glass and squeezed into it with some mint or other additions. I couldn’t believe how refreshing a drink could taste.

While it being a traditional city can be a downside, I love walking around old buildings. There are a lot of sights in Pamplona to explore such as The Citadel which is a huge fortress that was built in the 16th century. People also seem a lot more cheerful and friendly here. That could just be due to the weather, and I don’t think any place is free of its grumps or angry teens but certainly everyone I’ve met so far has been extremely welcoming and hospitable.

Cons

To keep things balanced, there is also a cons list. One of the few cons is one that’s very close to my heart: Irn-Bru is only brewed to its original recipe in Scotland. So even if it existed out here (which it doesn’t) I wouldn’t be drinking the same drink. I’m also an avid cinema goer which isn’t an option for me here as I don’t speak enough Spanish to watch the films I want to see. I recently watched a disturbingly poor quality version of Thor: Ragnarok just so I wouldn’t have to worry about spoilers (not that that ended up being an issue, you’ll probably see a blog post about it soon enough).

My Personal Goals

I guess the root of all my problems lies more with me than with Pamplona, Spain. Now that I have a taste for writing, it’s all my mind is really focussed on. So completing TEFL is on the shelf, learning Spanish is still on-going but has certainly stepped away from 1st position on my priorities list. I have so much that I want to accomplish and do, yet I can’t have time and money. So I need to either sacrifice time into work in order to fund trips to Barcelona, skiing, ETC. My other option is accepting that I can’t really afford to go anywhere but I’d then have more time to concentrate on my Spanish, focus on expanding my personal writing and creating some sort of following on that absolutely nonsensical social media platform they call Twitter, and perhaps pick up some extra skills along the way.

The simple option, of course, would be to get a job that involves learning and speaking Spanish. The issue with that being that my ability to socialise is about as high as my ability to speak Spanish: Meaning that the two combined together would lead only to disaster. Yes, I would probably learn as I went but until that point I’d be a flaming hot ball of anxiety, slowly melting into a puddle.

To sum it all up, Spain shows a lot of promise. It might not sound it from the content of this post but I’ve a realist and I’m only expressing myself in the way I feel is most honest. I’m not trying to sell the idea of moving to Spain but neither am I trying to convince people not to. While there are still things for me to see and do here, Spain has not been thoroughly enough explored yet.

I’m thinking of doing a post based on the idea of moving to Scotland. Not for myself of course but for those thinking of doing so. If that is something you think you’d be interested in then let me know!

Be sure to follow me here and on Twitter: @BakedHaggis

Alternatively, if you’d like to take a look at the work I’ve been doing on a Pompeii travel blog, you can check it out here: http://discoverpompeii.com/blog/

Similarly, if you want to see my first guest appearance on someone else’s blog, you can find that here: http://jerseygirlgonecaribbean.com/cambodia-temples-beaches-history-lessons-cameron-madden/

 

My Meditation Experience

 

I had this weird experience while listening to the Sam Harris guided meditation on Youtube (find a link at the bottom). Just to clarify before I go any further, I’m not religious whatsoever. I would class myself as spiritual but I’ve never really had any major experiences with my consciousness, even while meditating. I’d meditated many, many times and while it has been beneficial, my experience was never particularly bizarre. So for maybe the 10th or so time, I listened to this track. It also started off fairly routine with the focused breathing and becoming aware of sounds in the room. But when I first started becoming aware of my consciousness, I felt it expand.

Imagine the sun expanding and swallowing the Earth but rather than being yellow, its black, or at least very dark navy blue. It was like I was sinking into an expanding sun. Maybe it was more like a black hole. It got darker and darker the further I sunk.My heart rate actually increased and I could feel myself beginning to sweat. I almost lost my focus at this point because it was such an unusual experience for me. I guess it’s kind of similar to when you realise you’re lucid dreaming and get too excited and ultimately wake up. Luckily, I managed to concentrate on my breathing enough to continue.

When the audio reached the part where you open your eyes, I felt like what I was seeing wasn’t there: Like by opening my eyes I wasn’t seeing the outside world but more a projection of it. Like it could be real but more than like a screen was just turned on in my consciousness. I guess it could be compared to when a blank tv is turned on or a game loads up. The difference being that it was connected to the very base level of my mind. This was one of the creepy parts of the meditation as it made me feel like someone had just loaded reality onto my brain’s TV screen. I may not even be where my eyes are seeing. It could be like controlling a drone as it flies miles away. I guess that is kind of similar to how vision works.

When I closed my eyes again I started to notice bizarre feelings. Why were they bizarre? Well not only could I feel them, but I could also see them. The pressure on my back from the seat I was leaning against was a red wire or rope going straight from the bottom of my consciousness right up to the top. The seat colour itself was also red but that may have just been a coincidence as I couldn’t see or really remember the seat at this point in time. I could see my feet touching the floor as a green string, also going from the bottom to the top of my conscious field. I could see my hands touching my knees as bluey-green wire. This is where things started to get really trippy!

As I moved my hands, the string moved. Not necessarily because of the movement itself but more because of the change in sensation. Wiggling my fingers made the bluey-green strings vibrate. The more sensations I created, the more they vibrated until they became a sort of wiggle. They resembled a fluctuation chart going from its highest point to its lowest point over and over again: Like rolling hills that swoop down into sunken valleys. The weird thing was being able to experiment with this. Moving one part of my body and watching as the coloured string vibrated differently depending on the physical sensation I was feeling.

As I reached the second part where I opened my eyes, I felt my consciousness expanding (the same feeling of the sun expanding). I felt like I was in my head but also leaving it at the same time. Like my point of view stayed the same but the reach of my consciousness grew. It soon felt like I could reach out with my consciousness. Like at any moment I would make contact with the ceiling or the floor or the piece of paper that I could see. That at any moment I’d feel it as if I was touching it with my hand. I felt like my consciousness was a balloon gradually inflating. The centre of the balloon or sun stays in the same place; much like my centre but it is still expanding and reaching further.

So yeah, this was my most interesting and unique meditation experience (up until the day before I wrote this, I’ll write about that one soon). I’d had times where I’d come out of meditation at the end feelings a little strange or different but this was the first time I’d had proper visuals. Not to mention the whole expansion of consciousness feelings. I’m not sure that’s what people mean when they use the term ‘expansion of consciousness’ but that’s how it felt to me.

 

 

As always, feel free to comment with any questions or opinions. Hit the subscribe button to see more of my random-ass posts. Alternatively, follow my new and still empty Twitter @BakedHaggis to keep up to date with what I’m doing. Thanks for reading!

 

Sam Harris Meditation Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OboD7JrT0NE

Also, check out Sam Harris’s book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion which is where I first found this guided meditation and learned that I could be spiritual simply by viewing consciousness differently and without having to believe in a God.

Freelancer: Why get paid FOR work when you can pay TO work?

So I recently moved to Spain with my girlfriend. I don’t speak Spanish (although I am learning, just very slowly) and I have yet to find a job. I’ve only been here a week but I came to terms with the fact that without a basic understanding of the language, finding a job could be quite challenging. So my solution was to find a job online. I’d started looking before I moved out here and had discovered two freelance writing websites that basically allow you to do writing, data entry, proof-reading, etc for people and get paid to do it. Now, my writing ability is at an average level. It certainly isn’t the highest quality but I can manage the basics at least. So off I went and created my profiles on these websites. The first one, called UpWork, has repeatedly rejected my profile from being accepted onto their website. Apparently they have too many people who match my skills and experience level. So I moved onto the follow-up: Freelancer. I entered with optimism and I left wondering why I would ever have viewed it as anything but a waste of time and money. It all sounds perfect in theory but time and time again I learnt a valuable lesson: People are pieces of shit and Freelancer.com controlled by either morons or scum…quite possibly both!

So let me admit that there are definitely some positive aspects to the site: For one thing, it seems to be very easy to use and navigate your way around, everything seems to work how it’s supposed to and their systems for finding work that match your skillset are pretty good. Of course, that doesn’t remotely begin to make up for the rest of the bullshit you have to wade through.

First of all, in order to get a job you have to “bid”. Now as a free user, you get something like 8 bids which slowly build up again over time. Every project you bid on will have anywhere between 15-120 other people bidding on it as well. If any of these people has a reputation then it is automatically seen as better than your lack of one. So automatically you start off at a disadvantage. Getting your foot in the door is nearly impossible and you end up having to take on huge workloads for practically nothing. Of course Freelancer offers the opportunity to take their tests in order to display your ability. For example, the most frequent one I saw was a ‘level 1 English (US) Test’ which, even as a UK native, I think I could pass. On UpWork you can take as many tests as you like, all of which are completely free. On Freelancer however, this is not the case. This absolutely basic test costs you £5. That might not seem a lot but just keep track of these small costs as we go along and you’ll begin to see why it’s an issue. Luckily for me (or unluckily) Freelancer were offering a 2 week free trial of their “premium membership” which gives you 300 bids. Considering I had used all 8 of mine up in one day, I figured I may as well agree to the free trial and just make the most of it for those two weeks. I mean if it works out then it might even be worth paying for: this premium membership usually costs £19.95 per month. You apparently receive a list of benefits with it but from what I could see, the only useful items were the extra bids and the shiny orange logo that appears on your profile to display your premium status!

So I got to work bidding on projects, contacting people and trying to make my profile a bit more sellable. I added examples of my writing from my blog, as well as some of my academic writing and I even cut down a research report to make it a bit more manageable and uploaded that as well. So as far as I could tell, I displayed my experience and ability for all to see. I didn’t get much of a response on the first day but on the second I thought I’d found the ideal job. An “employer” wanted me to write 5-6 500 word articles every day, 6 days a week. I mean the articles themselves were hardly riveting but it allowed me to work on my writing and research a little bit and get paid to do so; I wasn’t going to start complaining…yet. The issue with this first person was that they’d asked to take communications off Freelancer which I now realise is a major red flag. At the time, I figured that maybe people preferred to discuss things off Freelancer as the site’s chat function is incredibly annoying and tends to be more of a hassle than anything. So I completed my first article, sent it to the guy and got ready to start the second. This was when I received a job offer from another person. The pay was better, they were going to set up the payments through Freelancer and the articles seemed a hell of a lot more interesting. I figured why not do both? So I got to work on this new article, finished it quickly and sent it to the guy. This is where I started to realise how naïve I had been. I messaged the guy on Freelancer and soon discovered that his account had been closed. I had already received an email from Freelancer stating the amount of money I’d earned from that job so I figured that at least I was going to get paid…no. You see, despite the fact that Freelancer takes a percentage of any job from the employee, that money is taken BEFORE you get paid for the job. I mean if they don’t’ have the sense to see the very obvious solution to this then perhaps they are just a group of people who share one brain among 30 of them. So in essence, I had just paid Freelancer £5 so that I could write an article on headphones. I made my first contact with Freelancer via the live chat function and explained that I just didn’t understand: how could they take money from me if there was no guarantee? Obviously (I say obviously, but clearly you require significantly more brain power than those behind the curtain at Freelancer) the smart thing to do would be to take that “deposit” from both parties and in the event that one side bails or turns out to be a scam, then the innocent person gets their money back and Freelancer keeps the other. That doesn’t even cover the time and effort already wasted. I was in the unfortunate position of still having to do articles for the other guy but I wasn’t about to have my time wasted any further: I told him that unless we did it on an article to article basis, then I wasn’t about to complete any more for him. He started preaching about how he wasn’t a scammer and how I’d get all the payments at the end of the week but considering this was all off Freelancer, I decided not to bother. At least I hadn’t paid any moronic deposit for the opportunity to do his work. I mean if Freelancer can’t even provide any sort of guarantee then I wasn’t going to hold my breath for dealings going on outside the site.

So off I went again, searching for some more reliable sources of work. I quite quickly found a man who needed several pages of text proof-read and corrected. He didn’t have any ratings but he agreed to pay in milestones. So I figured that this time I had nothing to lose. I started sorting through the work, making all the corrections and I messaged him as each page was done. At the start, he had told me that he needed this work completed within 3 hours. I went by that deadline and within 3 hours I messaged him to await further instructions. No reply. I messaged again and again, getting more annoyed with every hour that went by until I just took a deep breath and moved on. So now I’d been scammed out of work but I’d also been scammed out of work without even sending it to the person. Who are these people that go on and just waste people’s time and money like that? I’d just lost another £5 to Freelancer for doing work that I didn’t get paid for. I messaged them via the live chat again to find a solution to this problem. The person I talked to didn’t seem to grasp the concept at all. I mentioned the 3 hour deadline and kept getting responses like “it’s only been 3 hours, they might be busy” and “give it more time”…what they couldn’t or wouldn’t admit was that I had been ripped off. Not so much by this employer but actually by Freelancer.

Finally, I found a job with someone who had high ratings. Was this about to be the moment my Freelancer experience finally turned around? No, no it was not! This individual was going to pay me $2.50 per article (about 250 words each) which is about £1.91, meaning I’d have to do at least 6 of these just to cover the losses I’d made so far on the site. Since only geniuses such as them would charge you a percentage of what you’ll get paid before you do get paid. Anyway, I would have 9 articles to do in total which would at least bring me back up to breaking even. I got to work writing the articles but as experience had taught me, I wasn’t about to do all this work without some sort of guarantee. I messaged this new employer and explained that I’d send him one article at a time and he could release the funds as we go. No reply. I figured I’d write a few more articles while I wait on a response just so I can be ready. He’d given me a deadline of 20 hours and since I’d been busy for most of that, I didn’t have a huge amount of time left. No reply. I messaged him again explaining that I would even send two articles at a time if he released $5 afterwards. When he did eventually reply, it was to complain about the fact that he didn’t want to release the money that way. I explained that I’d already lost money on this site and that I wasn’t prepared to do so again. He just kept telling me to send the rest of the articles and then I’d get paid. A whole day went by of me explaining to him that I’d only send more if he paid me for the ones I’d already sent him. After a day or so, he finally told me that he would find someone else to do the work if I didn’t send it. The most annoying aspect of this wasn’t even doing the work without getting paid: it was that I couldn’t even leave the guy a bad review as he could just respond with an equally as negative one and it would make my profile look horrific.

In the end I did finally get a genuine job. I was hired to proof-read and correct a website and the dude paid me in the end. So you would think that I’d be ending this article on a happy note? Not even slightly. I end this post with a warning: Stay as far away from Freelancer.com as you possibly can! Use UpWork or any other freelance website but NOT Freelancer.com. My only successful job paid $30 and while most of this would just cover the losses I’d made trying to find one genuine job on this site, I still viewed it as a moment of success. I wasn’t any more optimistic in relation to the sites functionality and I certainly wasn’t any more trusting of the staff behind it or the employers hiring on it but still, one tiny moment of sunshine breaking through the grey. To avoid any possibility of losing these funds, I immediately went on to withdraw them. Keep in mind that Freelancer had had absolutely no issue whatsoever in taking funds from my account without actually warning me about it (apparently it’s hidden away in a section of their website) yet when I went to withdraw money, my Paypal account suddenly “wasn’t verified”. So they had been trigger happy in draining some Paypal account that hadn’t been verified but when it came to putting money into that account there is suddenly an issue. Once again, I sought the wisdom of the single brained staff (although maybe I’m being generous in assuming that they have one brain between them) of Freelancer’s live chat support. Over and over again I was told that I’d have to contact Paypal. Now, I had been on Paypal over and over again and hadn’t seen a single issue with my verification. I told a little white lie to this barely functional zombie typing on the other end of the chat and suggested that I’d already been in contact with Paypal. I remarked on how confused Paypal had been that Freelancer would be able to take funds from an unverified account but not deposit them. This swiftly led the cave-dweller to send me a link that allowed me to withdraw me funds. Of course, for security reasons, I was required to wait 15 days before said funds would leave Freelancer. This is yet to happen and I can’t say I’m holding my breath. What I expect to happen is that my account will get blocked or suspended for some ridiculously moronic reason and my funds will be lost to limbo *cough* Freelancer’s wallet *cough*.

To my shock yet not necessarily to my surprise, I ended up being unable to withdraw this $30. What happened? Well, I received a job that would pay me $200. Somehow, God knows why, despite all the failings so far and all the scams, hoodwinks, bamboozles, high jinks, etc that I’d already been dragged through, my brain lit up with excitement. Do I even need to tell you what happened? I guess I sort of do as this was once again a whole new situation that cements just how useless Freelancer.com. I had received the payment, it was right there on my Freelancer.com account and just as I went to withdraw it, it vanished. Gone! Poof! Up in smoke! What happened? The transaction was reversed…not because of anything I’d done (other than fucking hard work) but because apparently the user who had sent me the money had violated the site’s terms and conditions in some way and since his account was now blocked, they had to reverse the transaction. A transaction that cost me $20 to accept in a non-refundable deposit that helps pay the wage of money-hungry troglodytes who have been soulless since agreeing to work for Satan’s website: Freelancer.com

So why is Freelancer.com so popular? I’ll tell you why: You get people going on to rip off others who are looking for work. Freelancer have little reason to try and solve any of the problems because they make money from people like me. If they don’t even have the common sense to take deposits from both sides in order to cover the losses when one party bails then perhaps they are just a group of people who share a single brain cell among 30 of them. It really isn’t that difficult to organise. I mean you could have both parties put forward say 50% of payment which gets held in limbo. In the event that the work isn’t completed, then the employee loses their deposit. In the event the employer vanishes or runs off with the work, at least the employee gets something to cover the costs of the retarded fee system that Freelancer runs; At the absolute very least, they should wait until payment has been sent and a job has been successfully completed before they start charging people money. Especially since that is what all their information implies as you go through the process. Freelancer.com may sound (at first) like the ideal situation for any writers but it’s a black hole full of sick and evil people who only exist there to rip you off for everything that they can. If you want to get some people to write articles for free for you, then by all means, visit the website as the staff there will be more than willing to assist you in your schemes and scams. I’d even recommend you message them via the live chat and explain your plans to them. They’ll probably offer you a VIP membership or pay you to act like a genuine employer just so they can make even more money from the sorry sods such as myself…

Lust, Longing and Bouts of Anxiety

“If you meet somebody and your heart pounds, your hands shake, your knees go weak, that’s not the one. When you meet your ‘soul mate’ you’ll feel calm. No anxiety, no agitation.”

– Random quote apparently from a Buddhist

 

Until recently I don’t think I would have appreciated the value of this quote: we see in films people talking about their hearts racing, how they’re so nervous that they’ll make a mistake, that they go weak at the knees when they see someone they “love”. So when we feel these similar emotions we believe that it’s a sign that we’ve met a compatible partner, someone to whom we are physically and emotionally attracted to. For me, the idea of having weak knees, shaking hands and a racing heart sounds a lot more like something negative (my first thought being an anxiety attack) rather than a moment I’d look back on fondly. This is ultimately what I want to talk about today: “love” or at least my own version of it and the effect this has on anxiety (based on my own experience).

 

I always feel a bit hesitant to use the word “love” (never mind discussing it on a blog) because I feel like it has certain connotations that should be positive but are often perceived as negative. I mean you can love a dog, love a family member, love a friend, love all people, a band, a food, a drug, the fact that it’s not raining, sand, you can say you love pretty much everything in the world until you get to someone with whom you are romantically involved with and then it becomes this weight of pressure. It’s almost like using the term “love” is a quicker way of saying that you want to marry someone, have children, spend your retirement gardening together before being buried in the same plot of land that you’ve already purchased…maybe it’s the fact that I hate the idea of doing all those things but I’d like to think that I’m not the only one who sees it that way. As soon as the word love is used I find it creates complications or can cause the same feelings as being stuck in an elevator (when it’s not completely mutual that is). I think that love is tricky to discuss because not only does everyone have their own image of what “it” is but we’ve all experienced it in different ways from different sorts of people and our own experience of it won’t always be positive. Some people fall in love instantly, some never do, some people think they’ve loved only to realise they haven’t and for some it’s the opposite way around. I think love in itself is a combination of emotions which makes it more difficult to pin down because one might feel different emotions when in love than someone else would. I’d say that love is trust, happiness, comfort, lust, etc. Is that all love is though? Love can involve sadness but you’re not sad because you’re in love, you’re sad because you can’t have love. Maybe the person you love is with someone else or maybe they’ve been chosen for the first mission to mars. Anyway, I’m getting off topic here so let me get back on track: how does all of this relate to anxiety and mental health in general?

 

I’ve mentioned previously in a post that I suffer from varying forms of anxiety: I have incredibly debilitating social anxiety (slowly improving) as well as anxiety attacks that can be triggered by certain situations. Physical contact with other people used to be a challenge for me as well but I’ve mostly overcome that now. I’ve been in relationships before where I’ve initially felt anxious but quickly got past it only for my anxiety to still be rather prevailing in any other situation, even when with this person. So it came as quite a shock to me recently when I met someone, a complete stranger, with whom, from the get go I seemed to just feel comfortable. I mean there is always going to be that initial awkwardness of having to use the typical starter questions but once we were past that we got on like a house on fire. The real challenge was meeting friends of this person in social situations that would usually have me sweating and feeling at my most uncomfortable but nope, I felt fine and actually felt confident to a degree. Something about being with this person and knowing that they are there just removes some of the fear. I mean I’m sure a therapist would probably tell me that most of my anxiety stems from a fear of humiliation; I mean I can even think of examples off the top of my head quite easily of when this deep-rooted issue would have been cemented in place. So I guess when you are with a group of people and know that the person there who means the most to you isn’t going to put you down or view anything you say or do as weird, stupid or abnormal then you can just relax and be yourself. Perhaps it is the societal pressures to conform to the norms that lead us into these anxiety-ridden black holes.

 

This change isn’t just limited to situations involving that person though. I started noticing it in other areas of my life: at work I have a supervisor who other than being a racist, homophobic, bigoted alcoholic, caffeine-addicted chain-smoker is also just a bit of a dick. When I first started working there I would put up with it, I’d pretend to laugh at his awful jokes, I’d agree with his narcissistic and ego-inflating statements about his “skills” and my hatred for this man just built up with each day. Along comes this person and without even being aware of it I start taking on the views and opinions of this fossil to the point where he starts saying things like “you need to go back in your shell” and “I’m not liking this side of you”. Areas of work that I used to dread and actually fear became sort of “meh” and I quickly adjusted to them being part of the job. People who I used to avoid talking to I’ve since became quite friendly with simply because I found it easier to talk to them without freaking out about what to say. Most of this took place without me even being aware of it and I believe that it’s down to not only the physical side of being with someone (I don’t mean just the sex, although obviously that does play a major role in altering brain chemistry in such a manner) but also the emotional side. It’s not often that I can spend time with someone and be completely myself. I mean I’m exaggerating a little bit here but it’s certainly true that I usually have to keep some things locked up inside my brain or at least control certain aspects of my personality. SO I guess just being able to release all my built up “me-ness” is therapeutic to such an extent that I am able to relax a bit in other social situations.

 

I am of course not implying that you should be with someone just because they make you feel more confident and comfortable than you usually would but I am saying that for me, this is an incredible feeling to experience and it is certainly a lot more enjoyable than being with someone where you are constantly worried that you might fuck up. I mean isn’t that the dream relationship? I remember it being said pretty well in How I Met Your Mother when the mother (whose death was some of the most ridiculous writing ever and led to the worst ending of any TV series) says that she wants someone who not only tolerates or accepts her quirks but wants somebody who actually enjoys them and encourages them (I’m paraphrasing but it’s something like that). As any of my fellow introverts will know, there comes a time after socialising where you just need to be alone for a little bit to recharge. I can get to the stage pretty quickly given the right situation and often if I can’t recharge my social battery, I struggle to function and ultimately just get a bit irritable. One thing I did notice with this person is that I could spend days with them and I didn’t once think that I needed to leave to be alone. I mean it’s not like we were just in the same room for that time either, we were in each other’s personal space for prolonged periods of time. I remember leaving a party we’d been at and going back to the flat to just relax and that’s exactly what we did: relax. I left for work the next day without feeling even slightly exhausted (at least mentally) and didn’t need to hide in my cave for the next two days to recover from an evening of social interaction.

 

There is another issue that i’d like to mention quickly that i’m sure some, if not all of you have experienced at some stage. Remember when you’ve been attracted to someone and you start messaging them and every time your phone goes off you get a little wave of excitement run through your body then one day you send a text that might be a little risky or might be “make or break” and you get more nervous than you thought possible. Your phone goes off and you don’t even look in case it’s the reply and when it is you can’t even bring yourself to read it because you’re genuinely terrified of what it might say. Know what I’m talking about? Well there is also the opposite of that: where you enjoy chatting to someone but you’ve kind of grown weary of the conversation and when you see they’ve messaged you, you swipe away the notification usually to forget it was even there. I have great news: there is a middle ground and it’s a lot more enjoyable. You might say you like the “thrill” of the first option but I absolutely hate it. I get more stressed with stuff like that than anything else in the world. I nearly got kicked out of university on several occasions because I literally couldn’t open my e-mails out of fear i’d been kicked out…ironically enough the fear of being kicked out was the real cause of me nearly getting kicked out…anyway, back to the point: the middle ground is getting the thrill of that person messaging you but also not feeling like you need to respond straight away. You can send somewhat risky messages but still not feel like the Earth would be doing you a favour by opening below you and swallowing you up. This was just a minor point I wanted to add that doesn’t really have any relevance but still seemed worth a mention.

 

Anyway, this is a different sort of post from what I’d usually write about but what can I say? My brain took me in this direction today and I’ve just sort of let it type until it feels like it’s got it at all out. As usual, if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask. I love responding to any queries and comments and knowing that at least one person reads a post of mine and enjoys it or takes something away from it just makes it worthwhile.