The Patchwork analogy

belonging, and where we belong

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Dear fellow inhabitants of the world,

We all want to feel a sense of belonging. It’s only human nature. Where we ‘belong’ is what stabilises us. At first glance, it may seem like such a frivolous matter: where I belong? pah! Why would I need to worry about that? But, belonging is what has shaped humanity since the beginning of, well… humanity!

Finding your sense of belonging isn’t straight forward. It isn’t just a label you can stick on your forehead and say “yup, I’m this.” But despite the fact that it isn’t a rigid and permanent label, most of us treat it like it is. It’s a complex matter which is so subjective and unique to each individual that it becomes almost impossible to speak of it objectively.

Right. We’ve all felt, at some point in our lives, that we don’t quite fit in. We’ve tried seeking out (whether that was through moving friendship groups or moving countries) to find groups of people who are similar to us and who hold values close to ours, ranging all the way from the belief in God to whether peanut M&Ms are the best. Familiarity is comfort. Agreed. But the problem arises when we realise that we aren’t one dimensional beings. We don’t just like one thing, we don’t just hold one belief, we don’t just like one album, and we certainly don’t always have the exact same thoughts throughout our lives. We are like a flame, we are constantly flickering, changing shapes, and sometimes, to be quite honest, are a little random.

Let’s look at it simply. You’re back at secondary school (assuming you’re not there already). You are new and you need to find a friendship group. For the purpose of this thought experiment, there are exactly three stereotypical friendship groups at this school. The ‘geeky’ group, the ‘cool’ group and the ‘passionate-about-some-video-game’ group. You think, hmm… let me start with the geeks, they seem nice. Being the intelligent boy/girl that you are, you fit in fairly well in the ‘geek’ group. You get their inside jokes about Lady Macbeth, you understand what photons are, and you hold debates on current politics. Great. The only problem is, that you just feel like you can’t follow fashion, in fear of being judged by the geeks as a ‘conformist.’ You can’t listen to your favourite mainstream music because that’s so mundane, and you’re certainly not allowed to use incorrect grammar when you speak. So after spending a good six months with them, you decide it’s time to migrate to a different group.

This time it’s the ‘cool’ group. You decide to reveal your glamorous side. You wear all of those clothes you’d secretly been hoarding, you do your hair fashionably, and wear the same sneakers as they do. Done. You go all the way from being an unnoticed nobody, to the coolest guy/gal in town. You start picking up their dialect- in other words, you also start inserting more swear words than verbs in your sentences. But, you’re a keen reader. You are intelligent and you love exploring ideas and concepts; however, the moment you open your mouth to speak words of knowledge, you’re automatically attacked with disdainful glares and the same ignorant comment, “Ew, that’s so sad, get a life.” You start realising that a lot of things you used to enjoy before, like reading, debating, and being deep, just aren’t allowed when you’re ‘cool.’ Now it’s all about missing lessons, attending parties, and looking flawless 24/7. Yeah sure, you like a bit of the ‘cool’ life, but at the same time, whilst feeling liberated in some aspects, you also feel severely restricted in others. You end up not being able to keep up with the latest trends and you suddenly start to lose the attention of the ‘cool’ kids. You miserably conclude, these people are far too superficial for my liking.

So you move again. Off to the peeps who are passionate about video games this time. At first, you’re viewed suspiciously since, after all, you were part of the group which used to mock them. It takes them a while to feel comfortable around you. They realise that you also have a sensitive side, that you too cherish emotions and that you also, most importantly, love the same video-games as them. You click and feel at home, at least temporarily.

After a year of being with them, you start to miss squeeky clean hair, colour coordinated outfits and you miss academic jokes. You feel like every group satisfies a part of you, but somehow leaves an other part unsatisfied. You want the inner beauty, you want the outer beauty, and you want the entertainment combined. You end up feeling conflicted and feeling a little very out of place. You just don’t fully integrate into any group.

What do you do? If you don’t fit in fully, then you don’t fit in at all, right? Wrong. It’s not a 1 or 0 situation. Again, this isn’t binary, this is life. We don’t have to just belong in one place and forbid ourselves from breathing outside of it.

Trying to find the perfect place to belong in is absurd. There isn’t one single human being who has lived the exact same experiences as you. Keeping that in mind, why do we then seek to find someone (or multiple someones) who are identical to us? Why do we try to find people who are basically us? If you spend a lifetime trying to find them, you’re going to waste a lifetime, because you won’t.

Each human being is a patchwork. An intricate blanket with bits and bobs of different fabrics of different patterns. Throughout your life, you accumulate more bits of material (life events and experiences) and attach them on to the blanket. No one in the world will have the same blanket, but lots of people in the world will have shared sections of the patchwork; they may share the same belief, the same political stance, the same ethnicity, the same culture, the same hobbies, the same language, the same fears or even may have lived through the same experience with you.

It’s not about finding people who are the same; rather, it’s about finding people who are similar. Sometimes most of the times, your ideal group will not exist, so it’s your chance to make one. Back to the secondary school analogy, who said a fourth friendship group couldn’t spring into existence? And who said you couldn’t start it? Who also said you couldn’t belong in all three groups simultaneously? Maybe if we realised that a cool, geeky, video-game fan can exist, then we’d realise that so can any other combination. We shouldn’t be afraid of expressing what we enjoy, and the fear of not belonging shouldn’t stop us from doing it. No-one wholly belongs anywhere, we only partly do. Therefore, we need to realise that there are no fixed rules about how many groups we belong in. We are all weird and wonderful combinations of culture, ideas and passions. Remember that my friend πŸ™‚

Love from a Hooman Bean.

Seeing the Woodpecker.

why we no longer live in the moment

The virtual life is slowly rapidly taking over. It’s fact.

Today, I met a friend at the park. We started talking about the usual stuff, you know, the weather- (except this time, the weather was actually worth talking about because it was sunny for once) . As we were having a lovely chat, he suddenly turned around and said “do you hear that?”… I concentrated- “erm… I can hear…birds?”

“Yes, yes it’s a woodpecker!!”- and he ran off, leaving me somewhat baffled. A few minutes ticked by, and suddenly, I heard my name from between the trees and bushes, near the pond. What the hell is he doing there? He waved at me desperately to come over. I walked towards his direction, but in a hand gesture, he indicated that I had to run. So I did.

When I got there, I found him looking up at a huge tree (really, I don’t know the names of different tree types. In my world, as far as I’m concerned, all trees are called ‘huge trees’). I tried looking at the huge tree but I saw nothing apart from branches and some leaves- as expected from a tree. He pointed and said, “do you see it?” I tried hard and shrugged my shoulders “nope. But why-”

And at that moment I saw a beautiful spotted bird, with feathers in white red and black, pecking at the trunk. I stood there in utter awe. It was one of the most mesmerising things I had witnessed in my life. Forget David Attenborough’s super-HD-‘Planet-Earth’-which-has-his-soothing-voice-in-the-background-and-which-I-absolutely-love documentaries, because this, this was something different! Seeing things with my own eyes with my very own personal David Attenborough (my friend seemed to know everything about birds and trees and cars and trains and rocks- basically a human encyclopedia) definitely surpassed anything I had seen on screen.

It got me thinking, besides the fact that the woodpecker was gorgeous, I realised that we simply no longer live in the moment. I don’t mean that we live in a different dimension of some sort, I mean that we don’t live things the way they are when they exist.

How many of us have gone to see the new year’s fireworks, only to find the sky obscured with phones, tablets and selfie sticks? People are watching the fireworks through their screens whilst nudging one another and ruthlessly pulling through the crowd to get the best view- not for them, but for their camera, why? In order to gain more popularity amongst their Instagram followers. I mean the people (sitting comfy on their sofas) watching your story, probably have a better time seeing fireworks than you, who’s standing there, half sweating half freezing in the December/January winds.

Why is it that experiences and adventures are special? It’s because once it’s over, it’s over. The experience gets reincarnated into a memory, it never happens again. It’s because it’s rare and the exact same experience will never be repeated- making it inherently valuable. Before, it was the experience which was the priority, we focused on having a good time- and if we managed to get a picture or two, it was a bonus.

Now, unfortunately, it’s the other way round. It has become compulsory to take pictures and videos, it’s the only way to create the experience- I mean what’s the point in having a good time if other people don’t see that you had a good time, right? And so, obviously having a memorable experience gets pushed down the list of priorities; meaning that if you do have a wonderful time, it’s a bonus.

We’ve all been to countless boring parties, the kind where we wished we instead spent our evening listening to our uncle re-tell (for the 34th time) the story of how he rescued his goldfish. The following day, you’d find snaps and stories on the same party you were at, and if you hadn’t actually been to it, you would have probably looked at the pictures and wished you had. All of those forced flashing smiles, fancy poses, not-so original captions, the snippets of people caught laughing, and the two minutes when the speakers actually worked, are captured and published for others to see. People look like they had a good time, they fabricate a lie, slap some (fake-news) evidence on to their feed, and ta-dah! My followers believe I had a good time, therefore I had a good time, right? Wake up humans! We’ve become living lies.

Few people do things for their own pleasure nowadays. Yeah, I like sitting in nature, having a deep chat with a friend, I like laughing until it hurts, and reading a good book – No, I don’t have a Canon EOS 5DsR digital camera with a resolution of 50.6 megapixels to show you that I had a good time. But even if I did, for example take the picture of the woodpecker, the picture simply wouldn’t encapsulate the amazement I felt and instead would be a mediocre picture of a tree and a bird. Nothing special to my followers.

A picture will never ever capture how uplifted you felt by watching the sunset, or the warm and fuzzy feeling you felt inside when she/he said they loved you, or the inspiration you got after finishing a good book, or the tears of happiness, which glittered in your eyes, when you laughed with your loved ones.

We all know that it doesn’t take 1 minute to take the perfect shot- it takes at least 15 pictures, and even that’s an under-exaggeration. If someone has time to stop all of that fun they were supposedly in, in order to take a perfect picture with a 5.3 worded matching caption to show you, they must have spent most of their time taking the picture and the rest of the time editing it. If you need to show people the fun you’re in to feel like you’ve had it, you’re in no fun at all in the first place.

“So I’m sorry, ” say the people who are having a good time , “I’m having too much fun to take an awesome picture for you”- Remember that my friend πŸ™‚

Love from a Hooman Bean.

Exams. ’tis the season to be … Stressed out.

why do we stress about exams?

Why do we stress about exams?

Dear fellow inhabitants of the world,

Yes, exam season is fast approaching. You’ve probably been reminded more than you’d like to count; by your teachers, friends, family, classmates and oh! your calendar. Now you get to be reminded again, lucky you.

Why is it that we dread exams? Why do we sacrifice so much mentally and physically for those things? Is it really going to determine your life? Is it a measurement of your value as a human being? Is it your biggest investment? Is it because you feel like once you fail, you will be destined to fail for the rest of your life? If you’re a stressed out student reading this, your answer is probably a frustrated “YES!” to all of those questions.

Now let’s take a step back and view ‘exams’ in the perspective of an alien. It is (for most people) a bunch white pieces of paper with a few ink marks, asking you to make even more ink marks on the paper. Now what’s frightening about that? You’re not asked to walk on a blade or eat fire… Just make the stupid marks!

Obviously, it isn’t as simple as that. If you could get away with doodling on the corner of your page, we’d all have PhDs by now. What is scary about exams is that, like everything in life, we attach meaning to them.

But, the meaning we give exams is dangerous: exams represent our worth.

We believe that somehow by failing to draw a perfect curve on a graph we are impotent, useless, and might as well be wiped off the face of the earth. We believe that by being unable to analyse why Hamlet says “Hic et ubique” that we are unintelligent and a disgrace to humanity.

Enough with being so melodramatic. Now the real question is; has anyone made history by passing an exam? Have you ever seen a trailer of a movie based on the success of an individual for passing an exam? Have you ever seen a bestselling book titled “the guy/gal who passed her exam”? No. (and if you have, be sure to enlighten us with your knowledge in the comments below).

People make history through being different, through working hard, and through being authentic. If your life goal is to pass an exam, you’re gonna lead a pretty dry life trying to ‘impress an examiner’. Your exam is just one of the many stepping stones leading you to your final goal, whatever that may be.

You don’t stress about being nice to your friends, yet making friends is one of the most important skills in your life which will contribute to your happiness and success. Really, the stress shouldn’t be on whether you got the letter ‘A’ by your name. The focus should be on cultivating your personality, being a nice person to talk to, a great friend, a good daughter/son, and being genuinely interesting. Maybe, if we concentrated on raising a generation of ‘good’ people the world might be a better place.

And anyway, whether you’re next step is applying to uni or graduating from it, your employer isn’t gonna just look at your grades; because, even if you get straight A’s, you’ll find that a whole bunch of other people also got straight A’s, it’s your personality and qualities which make you stand out.

What good is any degree if all you got out of it was regurgitating the information you consumed over the years? It’s about learning, not for an exam, but for you. If you’re studying to solely to pass an exam, the moment you’ve handed the paper it in, everything will leave your head. You won’t bother looking back on it, because it was all about the exam!

What good is it having a qualification in something if you’ve forgotten everything already?

Is it so that it ‘looks good on your CV‘? You’re certainly not doing it for you, it’s for someone else. No wonder so many people are demotivated and stressed. It’s because you don’t feel like you’re doing something for you to judge, it’s because this whole education system is based on someone else judging you.

If you believe that your exams measure your competence, if someone sat you down and said ‘right, what can you do? Why should I hire you/why should I offer you a place at my school?’ what could you say without bringing up your qualifications? Are you a good public speaker? A good communicator? An amazing writer? Someone who pays attention to detail? What is it about you that is unique? I can assure you that all those things are not going to be taught to you in an exam.

Exams shouldn’t matter as much as they do to most people. Your College or school isn’t going to tell you to cultivate your personality and forget about exams, because how well you and your classmates do, essentially determines how good that school is. It’s in their best interest to drill into your head that ‘exams=life.’

If passing your exam was what was going brings you happiness, why are so many top students depressed or anxious? They’ve got the grades, but many of them live like hermits, secluding themselves from fun and real life because, (I don’t blame them) they have been brainwashed into thinking that exams are the golden tickets to a great life.

Put things into perspective, yes work hard for your exams, but don’t sacrifice your health for it (without being too blasΓ© either). Don’t view them as the only determining factor of your future. Life has much more than just exams and sometimes it’s hard to remember that when you’re so exam-focused. When you’re in the exam cloud, it’s hard to remember that sunshine exists. Take it easy, it isn’t a golden ticket to success. Remember that my friend πŸ™‚

Love from a Hooman Bean.

(P.s: if you want more exam focused posts, let me know in the comments)

Don’t kill the patient, kill the disease…

“Love everyone !” They say, but is that really possible?

Dear fellow inhabitants of the world,

We all have someone in our lives who we don’t like. Even though you try your best, you just can’t help it! Some people just seem to want to be disliked, right? They do everything imaginable to make you dislike them. Whether they are rude, mean, annoying or simply a pain in the derriΓ¨re! Worse still, there are some people we dislike simply because they do something we disagree with, ranging from holding a different belief, all the way to people who pour milk before their cereals.

Let’s be honest, the dislike can really quickly grow into hate. And that’s when it becomes serious. That hate doesn’t benefit you and certainly doesn’t benefit the people around you.

Think about it this way. When people get diseases, doctors (hopefully) strive to cure the patients. It’s not the patient’s fault that it’s ill and so the patient doesn’t get punished for being ill. It’s the bacteria which needs to be killed off, not the patient. So far so good.

Similarly, you can’t go around hating people for something they said or did. It was their actions you hated, not them. When you split the doing from the do-er, life suddenly becomes more simple. Instead of fighting against criminals, you fight against crime. Instead of getting rid of liars you get rid of lies. Instead of removing haters you remove hate. We all change. And we can all correct our mistakes. If we go round and remove anyone who had a bad quality in them from the world, you’ll be left with…well, no one. We all have faults and weaknesses, so just because someone’s fault is different from yours it doesn’t mean that they are inferior. It just means that their fault is different. That’s all.

People with hate and unkindness are patients, they suffer from a disease. They don’t need to be gotten rid off, it’s the disease which does. Because at heart we’re all good, it’s just some find it easier to express their goodness than others. Remember that my friend πŸ™‚

Love from a Hooman Bean.

What if we were all blobs of different coloured paint?

because we’re all our own type of beautiful.

Dear fellow inhabitants of the world,

Everyone wants to fit in. That’s fact.

We are all unique by default. No one will ever be exactly like you. No one is gonna laugh like you or think all the same thoughts as you, and no one will look 100% identical to you. There is 1 of you. Just 1. No one will ever beat you at being you, other than you. You are the best you there is.

Keeping this in mind (if I haven’t confused you already), now imagine we were all blobs of paint. Each one of us is a different colour. One day, something decides that being a purple blob is trendy. Now, all the purple blobs of the world get recruited as models and the rest become actors and actresses in Blobbywood, becoming the only representation of beauty in blob-world.

As you can imagine, turquoise blobs are gonna think, “Hey, we too are beautiful!” But what can one do when all is brainwashed into thinking there is only one kind of beautiful? Eventually, the turquoise blobs realise that no one is paying them any attention… The entire blob society becomes infested with an array of “how to become more purple” products; ranging all the way from makeup to the ‘consume-lots-of-beetroot-until-you-turn-purple’ diet.

Turquoises, despite having previously been confident about being beautiful, now give in to the new purplerism. They too start consuming beetroot obsessively like there’s no tomorrow, and painting themselves in purple makeup, just so that they could fit in.

Turquoises try everything they can to be ‘trendy’ and ‘cool’, but really, they only get as far as becoming a little greener. Turquoises begin to desperately spend money on anything which might give them hope to become beautiful, they ruin their health trying to live off a beetroot diet (which we all know is unhealthy even for a blob of paint), and they spend copious amounts of time looking at themselves in the mirror lamenting on how unpurple they look.

Eventually, the once self-confident turquoises become sad blobs with low self-esteem. Why? Because their perception of beauty has become binary. They started to believe that there were only two things in life, being purple or not purple. Whereby Purple= 1 and Unpurple = 0. Purple meant beauty, success and happiness and not being purple meant the opposite. The problem with this distorted binary way of thinking (don’t get me wrong, binary is great for computing!) Is that it doesn’t fully represent all the different alternatives out there, it only gives you two choices.

Yes Purple is beautiful, but so is orange and turquoise and blue and ochre and magenta. They’re all beautiful and everyone of us has a different personal preference. But what I’m saying is, instead of trying to be purple when you’re turquoise, and compete with purple blobs which are naturally and evidently more purple than you’ll ever dream of, why don’t you concentrate on being as turquoise as you can. Make yourself as vibrant as possible. Create your own beautiful.

That’s my message today. We are all our own beautiful. If we strive to be our healthiest selves (mentally, physically and spiritually) we will be a new authentic type of beautiful.

Every colour is beautiful; not every colour is everyone’s favourite, but be your own colour and shine with authenticity and vibrancy. Remember that my friend πŸ™‚

Love from a Hooman Bean.

The staircase analogy

It’s all about taking things one step at a time.

We’ve all climbed stairs before or at least seen people climb them…

Dear fellow inhabitants of the world,

Today I woke up with what seemed like a billion things to do. As expected, I didn’t want to wake up, so I kind of tried to keep my eyes closed for as long as possible in order to trick my body into thinking it was erm…sleeping. My nerves started to kick in and all of those lovely and extremely useful thoughts that like to visit us at convenient times of our lives started to tango in my head;

  • “I’m never gonna get all of this done”
  • “I have so much to do, it’s impossible”
  • “It’s gonna happen again isn’t it, I’m gonna try and I won’t get everything done and then I’ll panic and feel guilty”
  • “why can’t I live on an island where nothing matters”

Then, after spending so long worrying, I would get so tired from thinking hard that I would conclude, “hey, life’s short, I’m here for a good time, not a long time” and just waste my day, with that gnawing guilt in the background which means that I don’t actually relax and I certainly don’t get any work done. I waste a day which results in more stress the following day.

Okay, now that we’ve established my weekly habit (really, it happens so often it might as well become a tradition) let’s move on to -how to actually get things done.

Let’s take a staircase for example, close your eyes and imagine a staircase which has 100 steps (don’t close your eyes now silly, you won’t read what comes next) Now, your goal is to get to the top. There’s no point sitting at the bottom of the stairs moaning about how long and how difficult the climbing will be, because otherwise you’ll create this image in your head that the task is a lot harder than it actually is. If you concentrate solely on getting to the top you’ll just worry and find it impossible to climb. So if you don’t concentrate on the end goal, what the hell are you supposed to concentrate on?

That, my friends , is a question which has long haunted me. But the answer, is pretty straightforward: identify your overall goal but only concentrate on your next step. Don’t concentrate on the second step, or the third or fourth or even 37th, just the next. That’s it. It’s simple but so unbelievably effective it’s changed my life completely (at least just the way I think about tasks).

It certainly is like climbing stairs, you need to take 1 step at a time (maybe if you feel particularly rebellious you might take two) but you get the picture. Being ambitious isn’t what’s wrong, it’s the manner in which we try to reach our desired goal which is. Climbing the stairs 5 steps at a time is a challenge even for the taller members of our species. It’s all about taking bite-sized steps, just think about when you eat an apple, you don’t just shove the whole fruit in your mouth, otherwise you might break your jaw or something…

Instead you do the sensible thing, you take a bite at a time.

So why is it that when it comes to work, we do try to climb 13 steps in one go, or eat an entire apple in one mouthful, wondering why the hell it’s impossible to chew… Well, it’s because we’re not breaking down everything into manageable steps.

I don’t know about you, but I was mind blown by this. Like, “one step at a time? why didn’t I ever think of this before?!”And yes! Its practical, it works and it’s completely objective, it can be applied to anything in life!

I realised that I didn’t have to follow my tradition today, so I didn’t. I didn’t want to waste another precious day doing, well, nothing. I got a piece of paper and a pencil, I wrote down a list of things I had to get done this weekend and suddenly it changed from “I have so much work to do” – a vague stressful phrase- to “oh, I have 8 things to get done, I’ll start with this.”

Maybe I didn’t get absolutely everything done, but I sure did get a significant amount of it ticked off my list. And anyway, being on step 92 of your 100 step staircase is better than still sitting at the bottom sulking- strive for progress not perfection. Remember that my friend πŸ™‚

Love from a Hooman Bean.

The Journey Begins

Dear fellow inhabitants of the world,

I’ve started this blog because I’ve made a ground breaking discovery. Everybody you know (or don’t know) is human. I know! It’s crazy, right?

As obvious as it may sound, very few people realise it. I mean, yeah of course we acknowledge the fact that we are flesh and bones and that if you poke someone hard enough you might evoke a response similar to “Ouch you prick! what was that for?” But what we fail to grasp is the fact that, just as everyone can feel physical things, people also feel emotional things. And again, I’m stating the obvious, but we forget it.

Throughout my life, I’ve struggled through gaining self esteem, through gaining confidence and quite frankly being happy with me, just the way I am. And you know what, all my life I thought I was the only one fighting this battle, until it struck me that everyone else was doing the same. Everyone is fighting a battle. Everyone is equally as insecure as me, everyone feels as stupid as me when they speak in public, everyone remembers all the cringey moments of their lives just before they go to bed and hate themselves for it, everyone wishes they looked that much better with better legs or arms or whatever body part, everyone feels like they just aren’t cool enough… and the list doesn’t end.

My aim through this blog is to make you aware that we are but confused wonderful beings who need love, despite how much we pretend we don’t. I want to share my thoughts, emotions and experiences, hoping that it will help someone some day. This is where our journey begins, we hold each others hands (without immaturely squealing, ew I’m not holding his/her hand ) and walk through life together. And no, that is not being weak, it’s being strong, it’s helping one another because we need one another. You can hug yourself all you like, but it feels a million times better when someone else hugs you. Remember that my friend. πŸ™‚

Love from A Hooman Bean.