rosemary bones
 

Someone wise once said to me:

"transitions in life are raw, potent, excruciatingly vulnerable and indescribably rich." 

Due to radical developments and the associated shifts in personal perception, I believe the space inhabited between turning twenty and becoming thirty retains potent possibility for self-generated and genuinely life-altering experience.

If this time can be seen as an extended transition in its own right, what might that invoke?
What does today's world proffer during this wild and precious decade, and how are its constituents choosing to interpret the scene surrounding them? 

Rosemary Bones is an ongoing exploration of the figures in my life currently experiencing this transition. 


***

MICHAEL HANKIN

How old are you?

25.

 

Are you acutely aware of your age as you navigate each day?

Yes.

 

Do you feel as though that awareness places limitations on your choices, or propels them?

It neither helps nor hinders. It's more of steadying factor, a good litmus test. It reminds me that I'm young but it also reminds me of my responsibilities, without which I might be a bit lost.

I like looking around and seeing what else is going on - what my peers are up to. And although I think it's unwise to mark yourself against others, it's important to have a sense of the world around you, what's possible and what people are doing. Feeling my age feeds into that because right now if I still felt 15, or if for some reason I felt 40, my sense of place in the world would be warped. But knowing where I stand, at 25, I can remind myself when to relax and have fun, and when to take responsibility and partake in the bigger picture.

Do you feel aware of others' ages when you interact with them, and does that affect the way in which you engage with them?

Not really, unless it's extreme. Obviously hanging out with a really young child is going to be a bit different, but for the most part I don't think about that.

 

When did you last experience a moment of inspiration?

5 days ago. But even that feels untrue - I get inspired all the time. ALL the time!

 

What was the context?

On Sunday I was driving in the South of France and it occurred to me that I had left work in London on Friday, driven down to catch the ferry, driven through France, camping all over the place in woods and by rivers with my friends, and generally experiencing some beautiful moments in these amazing places. It also occurred to me that without my car, I could easily hop on a plane that night and be back at work on Monday morning. So much can happen in such a short space of time, and it's all really accessible.

I don't want to sound too arrogant here, 'cos sometimes that sense of freedom can become an enviable entity. But what I want to emphasize is these things that are enviable are easy. Doing something inspired is really easy. Becoming inspired is the harder part. But if you've got the get up & go, the balls and just a little bit of money, it's all within reach. For example, an average night out in a London club might cost you £50, but it would cost you the same to take a day trip almost anywhere in Europe! 

It's not this trip in itself that inspires me, it's the realization and acknowledgement that I was able to do it - there's something really empowering in that. And it's a catalyst too. Once you show yourself how accessible those previously enviable experiences are, you inspire and invigorate yourself to go for it more and more.

Who inspires you? Why?

Jo - my boss. She has an amazing get up & go, entrepreneurial spirit, and it's completely un-forced. Anything is possible!

And my friend John - he lives for one thing. His whole life is about his passion.

I'm inspired by people who are genuinely passionate and I admire eccentricity. Because I like these qualities in myself, so I want to do anything I can to bring them out more. I'm lucky that I do get to spend so much time in the company of those who inspire me.

 

Where is your attention most often occupied: past, present or future?

Future. Even though I'd like to think I'm an "in the now" sort of person!

 

What drives you / draws you from one to the other?

I'm quite excitable when thinking about what's coming next. Because I think quite differently about the world compared to how it typically functions, I'm always coming up with new ideas and then I want to go get on with them. That said, I also feel that we're often encouraged to consider future thinking as a good or a smart thing, but I'm not so sure it is. It's hard to admit, but I'd like to be more present-orientated.

Would you consider your time to be precious?

Yes.

 

Were there any recent moments when you were viscerally aware of your vitality?

I'm not easily spooked, and a recent dramatic car accident itself didn't phase me. What did get to me was the notion of putting a friend's life in danger, of possibly causing that person I love some damage - that shook me up.

 

Was there a follow-on from that experience?

No, you just deal with it and move on. You learn a lesson and it gets put in your bank of lessons, but you can't dwell on these things. It's happened!

What, if anything, do you prioritize each day?

I don't really have a routine each day - although that probably would be good for me - but I do make priorities for the month or year ahead, and they usually culminate in quite big goals. Most importantly I like to learn a new thing every year, and I like to make sure I get enough time outside in the countryside every week.

I prioritize action above everything else. But this year it's supposed to be butterflies, and I don't think I've learned all the butterflies yet.

 

Do you have a "bigger picture" in mind? 

I'd like to be known for one of the things I love - probably design. I'd like to get really good. The best. 

I'd like to have a better balance between countryside and city life. I'd like to feel a bit more settled.

 

How are you moving towards it?

I'm really, really happy with my life, doing what I'm doing, and I don't need a whole lot more to make it any better. It's like I don't know my destination, but I know the direction. And I think I'll recognize the destination whenever I arrive there.

 

 

***

KEMBA QUINN

How old are you?

24

 

Are you aware of your own age as you navigate each day?

No.

 

Are you aware of others' ages when you meet and interact with them?

I acknowledge life experience more than years on the planet. You don't have to be old to have experienced a lot - it's very dependent on one's own aspirations and how much you want to get out of life. You can live 5 years and experience the same year 5 times, or you can live 5 years and be evolving each year.

Do you think an awareness of age places limitations on our choices or propels them? 

That's an individual matter. For example you could choose to have the mentality that "I'm too old, I'm not a whippersnapper!" Or you could own it and think "I've got tons of life experience". It's all down to mindset. Age is a given, but your interpretation determines the outcome.

 

Where do you think that "mindset" comes from?

That's still an area of exploration for me! I've had a lot of discussions with people about nature versus nurture. What ethics and morals were instilled in you? Where were you brought up? How were you brought up? Your parents, friends, school teachers- what were they like?  Then there's the question of genes, chemicals, wiring... 

But I do believe that we have the power to completely shift everything we've known, if we want to. I've seen it happen where a realization of someone's completely alters their trajectory, and suddenly they've redesigned their story and made it their reality. We have tremendous powers as humans to harness awareness and use it to direct our interpretation of the world unfolding around us. We are a continuum of our choices, and mindset determines the choices we make. 

 

That sounds a bit like a chicken vs. egg scenario: what comes first, mindset or choices, if each conditions the other?

What makes us human is our ability to reflect and not necessarily act out of animal instinct but out of our thinking minds. We have the opportunity to sit with ourselves, to have awareness of the thinking process; an awareness of where a particular choice comes from. Because before any choice comes thought. And it's those thoughts that will determine choices. Sometimes there's an option to not react to animal instinct - that instinct will rise nonetheless, but we always have a choice as to how we respond to it. 

If awareness of mindset holds a central role, how do you tend to the health of yours and is it something you prioritize each day?

Yes absolutely each day. I start with the body - movement helps my blood to flow and allows my body to naturally catalyze a better functioning of the mind. By focussing first on the body, I'm taken out of my mind, which paradoxically helps me to get back into it.

I'm also recently learning about the power of breath to get energy naturally circulating, without actually having to make radical movements with the rest of my body. All of this is essential in bringing me to a place where I feel peaceful, have space between my thoughts, and am then able to address anything from a healthier starting point.

Food also plays a massive role. Oxygen and movement are vital of course, but so is food. I'm interested in the moral aspects of food consumption, particularly in our current world. I'm happiest when I'm not eating an animal - I feel I can get everything I need to thrive from plant-based ingredients, and I feel inspired by the notion of working in harmony with the environment. That said, with my [South African] heritage, I enjoy the celebratory aspect of eating together as part of the social domain. That's how I was raised. I was also raised to appreciate the circle of life - to acknowledge where each living thing comes from and where we go to. So in certain circumstances I'm happy to rest my beliefs aside with the view to wholeheartedly enjoying companionship, joyful communion and sharing. I'll never let my beliefs obstruct an opportunity for human connection. That human connection is first and foremost my priority, and I'm happy to relax my personal pursuits in aid of it.

What inspires you?

 I find it hard to pinpoint inspiration because I really feel that it's the whole experience of it all that contributes to any moment of inspiration. So to nail down a specific is to reduce what it's really about for me. It's drawn from our most crippling lows to our best highs in order to facilitate our current experience. So for me inspiration is integral; it's everything all at once.  

 

When did you last experience a moment of inspiration? 

It's been a long time since I really felt inspired. For me that's due to where I've been recently working [within the superyachting industry] and not cultivating those practices that nurture inspiration and creativity. It's quite a dull place to be! For me, inspiration comes from steady efforts towards a goal or idea, and sometimes it comes in bursts. So although I may not have naturally felt inspired recently, I know it's all part of the building process towards experiencing the thrill of ecstasy. In the meantime I've been focussing on the development of knowledge and expanding my educational intake to facilitate future inspiration.

 

You're talking about current efforts in regard to a future expectation or desire; would you say your attention is more often rooted in the past, present of future?

The past is of relevance if we're learning from mistakes. But planning for the future is only beneficial if we're also being present now.

 

What about memories? Positive memories?

I really like the phrase "a boat isn't driven by its wake." It can be nice to reflect on past highs, but I feel the past is most applicable for growth when we're using it to reflect on what wasn't so good and how we could improve upon it for the future. I think it's important to acknowledge your history and where you've come from, but also not to feel that your current moment or future is determined by [that history]. Who we believe we are right now is what will govern our future, so really it all comes down to the present moment.

 

What's your motivation to explore each of those aspects in time?

Reminiscing tends to compliment those times when I'm already inspired. In those moments, happy memories of the past naturally arise. But when I'm feeling misguided, like I might have gone in the wrong direction, I more intentionally explore different times when I was feeling more fulfilled or happy, to see where the discrepancy is or if there is something within my power to change my current situation. 

I don't feel the need to look too deeply into the present; all you need to do is be here. 

Anything that was created by man was an idea for the future at some point. So dwelling in the future, for me, comes hand in hand with creativity - for development, innovation and improvement. How can we make life better for each other? What could work? How can we facilitate more fun, more connection, more authenticity? That's when the future becomes useful and interesting to me. It's an idea of what is possible beyond what we're currently experiencing. 

Who inspires you?

I'm inspired by people who think for themselves and take responsibility for their own life.

The pivotal man in my life is Alan Watts! He certainly played a major role in changing the way I think. It takes a long time to fully understand the depth of what he's saying, so many hours of my life have been devoted to listening and reading there!

 

How do you lay your table for inspiration to be welcomed in? 

I'm so interested in this. That question: what facilitates inspiration? 

I'm in the process of discovering that there are many aspects that provide foundations for inspiration - basic necessities that we must have in place before we can build further. Taking care of my body, health, environment; that's the start. Then the livelihood; how I'm supporting myself and making a living. Then there's the social aspect; who I'm surrounding myself with, who I choose to engage with and in what manner. Then the information aspect; what do I allow into my brain? What do I read and watch? It's very difficult to feel inspired if we're homeless, hungry, or have negative company. We must take care of the survival necessities first. And from there we can create the conditions for genuine inspiration to flourish. But it's such broad thing - I'm really only just beginning to delve into that and unveil some understanding!

 

Do you have a bigger picture in mind?

YES!

 

How are you employing your hours of today to move you in the direction of that picture?

Even when I'm not feeling inspired, I always refer back to my bigger picture. The decisions I make steer towards aspects of it, no matter how small or big they may be, so it's really the driving force that carries me through the now - whether it's challenging or easy. There's no such thing as a bad choice. Even the most uninspiring times in my life have helped to deepen my understanding, whether it's directed towards myself, or manifests as heightened empathy with others. There is always some sort of value to any experience.

 

How do you access that value?

By not seeing it as either good or bad at the time. Holding trust that it is of value. In time, that value naturally shines through, whether it be in a week or ten years.

Value is accessed in time.


***

ALEXANDER BURTON

 

How old are you? 

24

 

Do you have an awareness of age in your day-to-day activity?

I’m becoming more aware of it as I progress through my twenties. Particularly due to working within the creative world — I’m conscious of the ways in which your age affects how people interpret your work. There’s a sense of pressure, as though the window for being able to have an impact is going to close. I’m approaching the point where I’ll be too old for achievements to be impressive in the way they were when I was eighteen.

When I completed my MFA, I was still only twenty-two. But since then, things have slowed down.There’s a part of me that says “your twenties are for exploring and having fun!” but alongside that I know my parents were only twenty-one when they got married... 
I just feel like I ought to have my shit together already! 

 

Is that feeling emanating from how you were raised, or from the world as you are currently experiencing it? 

It's mostly my background.
But feeling as though I should have excelled more with my career comes from comparing myself with other people who are already more successful than me.

When I was a teenager, I assumed that by twenty-five I would be doing exactly what I wanted without having to compromise my ideals with regards to a career or where I’m living. I thought that seven years would be enough to sort myself out — which is so hilarious now!
As I’m approaching twenty-five, all of those heavy expectations have been brought to the surface and thrown me into a relief of sorts.

I’ve realized I’m actually very lucky to be where I am; to be able to explore my creativity and not feel restricted by it. 

 

Do you feel compelled to relax your expectations?

I think so. I think that will be the defining thing for this year; to accept what hasn’t happened yet, to encourage myself that those things may still happen in the future, but not to set time-constrained goals like “I’ll be doing this when I’m thirty!” Instead I can be realistic and remember that the main thing is to enjoy this time. I’m young! I’ve lived like an old man for such a long time — when I was eighteen, I acted like I was forty. I was so serious about life and I dressed like a college professor. I think I was dressing for the life I thought I wanted, but now I’m dressing for the life I actually have.
 

Has your perspective morphed in any other ways since your late teens?

I feel like I’ve gone through an ebb and flow: having lots of options available to me but also (confusingly) having that coincide with a period of sadness when I just felt like I couldn’t do anything at all. Then regaining that sense of having the capacity to make spontaneous and life-improving decisions. But it goes back and forth.

Eighteen-year-old me would say “why do you work in an office if you don’t enjoy it? Why are you doing that?” Mid-twenties me now says “because I need to pay rent!” There’s a sense of conflict there.

 

Does that revolve around a responsibility factor that simply wasn’t there before, or have you changed the way you think?

It’s a responsibility factor, because I still have the same desires as I did when I was eighteen with regards to freedom. And if anything, the fulfilment of those desires feels more accessible as I get older. For example, when I was younger I would dream of travelling the world, but it wasn’t really an option. Whereas now if I felt like jumping in a car and driving from Oslo to Minsk, I would just do it. I don’t feel like any of that is out of reach from a practical perspective. Except that my job now isn’t the kind of one where I could just take off at a moment’s notice. I have to take that into consideration. 

I have noticed that my work is always best when I’m channelling that youthful energy. It feels like sorcery; making spontaneous decisions, altering my course and, in the process, manipulating my feelings so that I can suddenly access that dormant source.
 

What has influenced the morphing of your perspective?

Meeting people who had an intriguing world view, and also people who genuinely believed in me. To the extent that I would voice a personal doubt and they would just say straight up “that’s fucking stupid.” That really had an impact on the way that I viewed the world and myself, and it pushed me to recognize my talents and stop wasting time. 

There are also ‘bad’ things that have had an impact, but I think that’s all part of the texture of life. You don’t arrive at twenty-five with only positive memories. There is plenty of time for bad stuff to have happened — and it does. But it informs your world view. And opening yourself up to that also comes with age. I think you’re an adult when you realize you have to find a way to deal with all of the shitty stuff that will continue throughout life. You can’t just keep going to your parents to tell them what happened and ask for support or help. It’s more like “I have to find a way of coping with this so that I can lead the life that I want.” 

 

In that sense, does your age feel like a limitation on how you can behave, or does it propel you in a positive direction to do things better?

There is a moment when you first see your parents as actual living people, people that you maybe want to be friends with. Right there is a shedding: you lose them as parents. There was a definite point when I thought “oh my god, these are people, I can’t continue burden them with my problems,” even though I know they would always want to help. That is something that came with age.
I felt it in myself, but I also felt it from them —
“You’re a man now! You don’t have to call us every time your boiler leaks or you can’t find your shoe.” 

To be honest though, it doesn’t really work in practice from my parents’ side. For example my mum will call me and say “why didn’t you tell me you were struggling?” Or, “are you in Barcelona?!”

 

Do you think they might be confronted with a transition too? 

There’s definitely a conflict between wanting to let me go, and grow, but also not losing me as their child. Not that they totally lose me, but they cease to become parents in the way they’ve experienced it so far. Because the potential outcome of this process is that they lose a very important aspect of their own lives; that feeling of responsibility. But it’s a good reminder that however much you might like to be a simple, single entity floating through the world, that is just never the case.
Every change that happens to you involves other people. 
 

What is the most pleasurable change that you’ve noticed occurring?

I feel like I don’t have to ask permission any more. Not just with regards to my parents but with everything. And I’m finally in a place where I can actually afford to do some of the things I really want to do and that is a new feeling. Not having  to shop on a budget is really surreal. 

This decade is really beautiful and it does feel like a transition because I’ve lost touch with any unwanted influence from my parents or peers and am very much at the stage where I can do what I want. I’m not in a long term relationship and I haven’t got anyone telling me not to do stuff. I don’t have a mortgage (and I never really want one), and I don’t have debt - it’s very liberating!

 

So you’ve shed some of the strongholds from your previous decade - what do you think you might shed from this decade, as you move into the next?

I wish I could answer that! But I really don’t know yet, and I don’t think I will know until I get there. Now I can think of what I miss about being eighteen - like not having anywhere to go or anywhere to be - but I also remember at the time wishing that I was I grown up and had a cool job and an amazing life in the city. And now that I’m here, I’m thinking back on that time!

 

Your younger self would be really impressed with your current self - those ideals of home and job and friends have been achieved - but you still feel like that’s not it. There’s something else that you want. Has that surprised you? Or do you feel like it is just the nature of the world to always want more even when we accomplish our goals?

It was a surprise to me to realize that we do always want more. If someone had nudged me at eighteen and described to me my current life, I would think it was so cool and unbelievable that I could have it! But I don’t necessarily feel that way every day when I wake up. I only recently became aware of my accomplishments and was surprised by how much I was taking it all for granted.
I think it is a symptom of being.

 

Why do you think that is — do we adjust our capacity for appreciation in relation to the rate at which our successes manifest? Or is there always something beyond an existing goal we’ve established because - as a changing human - it’s not possible to get to that goal without simultaneously developing and expanding our thinking?

I think that’s really nicely put. Six years is quite a long time for me, so the changes that occurred were very gradual. It’s been a case of slowly accumulating characteristics and perspectives. I used to feel distressed by the notion that I was just an amalgam of every person I’d ever met - the thought that I would pick up the best of those people I really admired, and get rid of the bits I identified with in people I didn’t like - and I used to think that made me half a person because I wasn’t really me. But actually that’s how you grow, that’s what makes you into a person. Otherwise you’d just stay a baby.

 

How do you differentiate between what’s influencing you and what’s inspiring you?

For me, inspiration is tied more to physicality. It’s chills down your spine, or breath held in your lungs. Whereas with influence it’s more incremental. For example my style might be subtly influenced by people I see on the street, my use of language is influenced by the poetry I read…

 

… but the direct source of influence isn’t necessarily recognised in the moment that it’s happening?

Exactly.

 

But if you are inspired by something, are you aware of it as it happens?

Yes, because I actually feel it. And because I value that feeling so much, I actively seek it out and try to place myself in situations where inspiration might have the opportunity to grab me.

 

How do you do that?

If I feel the desire for an idea, I go for a run. I allow myself to process all of my thoughts and then let my body bring about a resolution. It’s a weird combination of putting myself in situation where I know I probably am going to be hit by inspiration at some point, but simultaneously I’m not focussing my attention on that eventuality, so I am caught a little off guard. But I’ve never gone for a run and not come back with a good idea!

 

What is it about running that you think cradles that potential?

It’s one way I can provide myself with some blankness. Running strips things back for me and if I’m running with problems in my head, they always seem to shrink significantly so I guess it fosters perspective. I also never run on roads so it also allows me not only to a be a part of nature, but to almost be in sync with it. When I’m walking, I’m very much an observer, but when I run I feel much more in tune with the rhythm of what’s going on around me. There’s something about the crunching of sticks or the squelching of mud underfoot that makes it more of a dance than a run, because I’m not thinking about how many calories I’ve burned or how far I’ve gone; I literally run until I have an idea or get the perspective I need and then I go home. 
 

Are there any other sources you turn to when seeking inspiration?

Yes, and it’s actually linked to the first. The other thing I do is head into Nature. Growing up in Wales, I used to have a strange relationship with the sea. Up until the age of eighteen, I can remember feeling like the ocean was so vast and so terrifying but it was omnipresent: I could see it from my house, from my school, from the school bus. I didn’t have any interaction with it - or so I thought. After moving to London in my twenties, I thought that any stress I experienced came from not being able to look at the ocean.
Living away from it suddenly brought to light how much I was actually taking from that opportunity - just being able to look and not necessarily even see anything. To gaze at the horizon and almost deprive your senses of anything more complicated. 

I remember a moment in my London kitchen: I was just doing some writing and I realized suddenly I was breathing in a different way to how I normally would - I was super relaxed, and for some reason I found myself thinking of the ocean. And then I realized that my dishwasher was at the point in its cycle where it sounds like gentle waves lapping at the shore. And it was the calmest I’ve ever felt since living in the city and it made me reconsider how important the sea actually is for my sense of perspective. 

The sea or the mountains. I like placing myself inside a scape of vastness where I can remind myself that I am just a person, and why would I no need to be stressed about an email someone sent me if I’m standing next to a tree that’s been here for a thousand years? 

 

How does your teen self’s perception of your twenties differ from how you are currently conceiving your ensuing decade?

I think less about my future now. As an eighteen-year-old, I was interested in where I’d be living and working, or who I might be in a relationship with. And now that I’m actually doing all that, I realize how impossible it is to imagine where you will be somewhere down the line. Who knows what will happen?

 

Do you find that uncertainty exciting or unnerving?

I find it very exciting. When my parents were my age, they got a job as soon as they left school and that was it - that was their career. I don’t think that happens so often any more and I don’t think it will happen to me because I’ve had the chance to think creatively about a career. 
 

What would you say you cherish about this time in your life?

I adore the fact that I am healthy. 

I’m thankful for the ability to feel like I’m in control of what I’m doing. I’m also thankful for all the people I’ve met who’ve taught me that way of thinking. 

I cherish my relationship to the landscape, and my increased awareness of its importance. That’s come from growing up alongside it but also seeing its value through being creative. I can only ever write about landscapes and relationships. And using those two I can write about anything.

I’m also grateful to have maintained a sense of home. I can be anywhere in the world, but I always know my home is still there. 

 

How does that affect how you approach your life?

It provides both perspective and safety. Not in a fiscal way, but in the natural way. I derive so much comfort and energy from the sound of waves; it instills real tranquility in me. I have found a way to provide peace to my world, and I imagine if I’d never experienced that and didn’t know how I needed to feel or how to get that feeling, I don’t know how I would be doing things.

 

Where has your capacity to think like that come from? The ability to see, for example, if you’re upset you need to go for a run? To recognize what you actually need in either a challenging or celebratory situation? If some people don’t have that capacity, how do you know what you need in the moment?

Ok well I might have to get out my teeny tiny violin here… But I think it’s from having periods of — I don’t wanna say solitude — of loneliness. Of finding myself completely without a support network, or being in a mental state where I didn’t feel like I could reach out to anyone. And having to deal with it because there’s nothing else one can do. Through those states, I must have realized at some point that I needed to help myself because no one else was going to. I had to look at the landscape of my being and map it out. Now I feel very proud of my capacity to do that. I can intuit down to the smallest things, such as whether or not I’m in the right space to take the lift, or if I need to take the stairs.
I’m really in tune with how I’m feeling; what I’m lacking or what I’ve got an abundance of.
 

Do you ever find yourself wondering about the future?

I think about the future but it’s very different from how I would have imagined it previously. As a teenager, I would go to sleep vividly picturing my life mid-twenties and all the details that would incur, but now I never give myself the time to indulge in those sort of fantasies. But I think after this interview I will! For me it’s quite an integral part in being able to follow your dreams - first you have to know what they are. I’ve become less of a dreamer, or at least less held in captivity by them. Now I think if I want to do something, I’ll make it happen. The younger me would want something to happen but just assume that someone else would come along to make it happen.

I remember doing a Photographical project in Norway and I received so many messages from people asking how and why I did it by myself, yet to me it was obvious: if I hadn’t done it by myself, it wouldn’t have happened!
A lot of people fail to realize that it’s within their command.

But now I know that my destiny is within my command. I think that’s a key conclusion to have come to; it’s not up to anyone else.
That is something I say to myself if I’m feeling particularly mopey.
 

 


***

SHELBY EATON
 

How old are you?

25

 

Are you aware of your age in day to day life?

I think about my age constantly because I’m terrified of getting old.

 


Why?

Partly for vain reasons.
I know that our bodies start to break down in different ways, and maybe things start to get a little more complicated.
Right now I can be very carefree in the way I do things and not necessarily take my health into consideration, but one day it might catch up to me and I’m almost dreading that.
Especially being an only child - I don’t know if I will have someone to help me if I need it!
 


Have you witnessed any personal psychological differences between now and, say, 5 or 10 years ago?

Now I definitely have my own sense of what life should be; what I want to embrace. Whereas back than I just took other people’s word for it and almost mirrored what they thought life should be; their beliefs and their opinions. But now I feel like I have refined my own way of thinking and I am more psychologically independent. I think it’s smarter to do things your own way than to just mimic the voices of those around you. 



What influenced that change, that capacity to craft your own approach to life?

The biggest thing was altering the people I was surrounded by most often. I noticed that when I steered clear of people who didn’t bring much to the table, I was better off. A lot of the friends I hung out with or guys I dated… it never felt like it flowed that easily and I feel like they were the bumps in the road that made me question how I was feeling, thinking, and viewing life. Once I detached myself from those relationships, I got a clearer picture of what I really wanted.

Travelling also opened my eyes. It taught me to be brave, independent, open-minded and flexible. 

And moving away from home, too.



When did you move away from home?

Four months ago.
 


What were your reasons for doing that?

I moved because I felt confined. Life innately has a constant forward motion but I felt like I was stuck behind something that wasn’t allowing me to keep flowing with it. That felt very constricting, and a little bit depressing. I knew there was so much more out there that I could be experiencing and doing but I felt held back by something - and maybe that something was myself, maybe I was standing in my own way. But there was a feeling of knowing there was something better and that I needed to get to it. 



How do you feel now? Would you say you’ve broken past those confinements?

Yes. I feel like this is what I should have done a long time ago! It was the obvious thing to do, but I just had some internal things that were holding me back and I had to give myself the time to be ready to do it. Now I have broken out of that comfortable shell; that space you get into where it may not always feel that great, but it does feel safe. And easy.

But life is lot more open, unpredictable, and exciting now!



What has been the most challenging aspect of that change?

Knowing that I am really on my own. There are some people I could call, but at the end of the day I am doing this all by myself and that’s a little scary. Especially when I’m so used to having people right there when I need them. I guess I don’t have to do it by myself, that could be something that’s happening in my mind, but that’s how it has unfolded.

 

How else could you do it though?

I guess if I didn’t want to put in the legwork… I’d probably just be homeless! That’s the other option!
 


What’s been the most exciting or surprising element of this move?

How amazing I feel. I knew it would be good, but I didn’t know how good.

Since setting up my own space and doing what I want do, on my own time, I have been shocked by how good it feels. Like, “Oh this is why kids move out of their parents’ place - I get it now!” Before, I thought it was great that I was saving so much money by not paying rent. But now even when I’m just walking down the street, I’m surprised by how happy I am. I did this back home but it just didn’t feel the same.

 

And it still feels good, even with the shift in responsibility?

When I was living back home, I still had a sense of independent responsibility. I never relied on my parents for much - they helped out when they could, but I always knew that could end at any moment and there was a chance I’d have to take over (financially), so I was always in the headspace of taking care of myself - having a job, and trying to spend responsibility etc.

 

Now that you’re living alone, do you have anything that you have to (or want to) prioritize each day?

I would like to make a better effort to do the little things that will make me happy, and not get so stuck in the routine of day to day life. Whether it's sitting down and meditating, or stretching on my mat for 5 minutes, or pouring a glass of Kombucha because it helps my stomach - little things that I push aside because I’m running late for work or I haven’t brushed my teeth. There’s always other things that should or could be done, so I would like to prioritize taking care of myself. To remember that if I’m not ok, everything else in my life is also going to fall by the wayside.



The things you mentioned are centred around wellness and health - is that something you’ve always had an awareness of, or has that emerged since starting this new chapter?

No it’s not an active interest - I’ve actually always put that stuff off! I always think I can leave things until tomorrow.



What are some of the other things you do do you always make time for? 

Eating.



Why do you think that’s at the top of your list?

I think I have deeply rooted associations with food. When I was growing up, food was either a reward, or something given to me to keep me quiet or occupied! I think the reward factor has created a trigger in my brain where now I think food means happiness and good things, so I associate it with automatically feeling good. 

Another reason is that I know I have such amazing food available to me here in Seattle, and I’d feel foolish to not make the most of that.



Anything else?

My plants. I like watching them grow, and if their colours are changing for the worse, I like trying to figure out what needs to happen to make them better. That aspect of nurturing appeals to me.
 


What are you inspired by at the moment?

My surroundings. Music. They both make me appreciate my senses. Music is especially baffling; the fact that there can be such an array of melodies and beats. We’ve had music for eons - how does it not all sound the same by now?! People still find ways to make it unique, and to me that is the most inspiring thing. I can’t imagine not being able to hear music. It transports me, brings back memories - it’s everything.

And my surroundings here are so different to what I’m used to, I am in awe most days. When the sun comes out here I appreciate it so much more than when I lived at home in Florida. Even if the sky is blue - to me that is the coolest thing! The moss on the trees, the mountains… it’s all new and different. 

I feel like my senses have been fine-tuned, so now even subtle shifts have the potential to provoke a reaction in me.



When do you feel the most alive?

When I’m blasting music from my speakers. Or when I’m walking outside and the sun is shining but the cool breeze is blowing - that is my ‘ah’ moment. But really it’s the music that makes me feel invigorated, alive. And rowdy. 

 

And does that make you feel more connected to what’s going on around you, or are you more in your own bubble?

Own bubble. 



What do cherish most about this time in your life?

Independence. Being on my own. Having my own space. I don’t know if I could live with someone else - it’s just so good having your own space and always being able to go back to it exactly how you left it. There is something to be said for being able to walk around naked or blast the music or burn something on the stove and not be pissing anyone off. 

 

Does that feel tied in to how old you are now - is it a part of growing up? Or do you think it is simply chronological
i.e. you moved out of home and this is just what came next?

If I’d done this at a younger age, I would have been a lot more nervous and worried. I was so confused about everything as a teenager.
I was clueless and didn’t know who I was - which sounds so cliche - but I was lost and I remember feeling so defeated by life in general; feeling like I should know what I wanted to do / who I wanted to be / where I wanted to go etc. So if I had come out here at that stage, I would have just been overwhelmed and become more confused.

The increase in opportunities here that are now so inspiring and motivating, would back then have been intimidating and frightening. Now I’m much more grounded so this move never even felt like a risk. I was never worried that it wasn’t gonna work out. I just figured there would be a way. I’m better built to handle it now.


Where has that empowerment come from?

I think just growing up. Life teaches you so much and sometime you just have to get through it to figure it out -
to learn your lessons. 

Breaking up with my boyfriend of 5 years was a big part of it. We got together when I’d just turned 19 - that pivotal point just after high school. Most people our age were moving on to different things and although I didn’t realise it at the time, I had begun to feel tied down. I loved the person I was with, but he was quite stagnant in his own life, so when I wanted to break away, the ties that he had began to affect both of us - although I would never have been able to recognize that at the time as holding me back! 

If you had asked me what I wanted back then, I wouldn't have known how to answer.

Now I think it was life's forward momentum that was pushing at me but I just couldn’t get past a few things;
my relationship, the space that I lived in, having my parents there, living in Florida for so long, the friends I had at the time that weren’t really on my same wavelength… all of that. At the time, they each had their role, but now that I’m here I can look back and see those things weren't really allowing me to grow.

 

It’s quite a bold move to cut ties with all that stuff in one go, and I’m wondering where that boldness came from? Especially if, as you say, at the time you didn’t really know who you were?
 

I can attribute the spark to a really bad car accident I was in, and a yoga retreat that followed immediately after.
The accident forced a realization of how short and uncertain life is, and how necessary it is to not sit around waiting for the “right moment” but to just go for it.

And then the retreat - right after going through something so traumatic and mind-altering - being in such a safe comforting space with loving people, that helped a lot. Being held by that yogic vibe was exactly what I needed at the time. 

The accident was the main thing. But the retreat gave me the courage to carry on afterwards. It was my bridge back into my life.
So without it, I wouldn’t have been able to move forward from the accident, but without the accident I probably wouldn’t have been propelled to bring myself out West! 

Then after all that I also went travelling, which helped me to realize how great independence is, and it showed me a little taste of what else is available out there besides where I grew up. So that helped a little.

But yeah, mainly being scared shitless!

 

So relatively speaking, it’s a very short period of time in which a lot has changed.

Absolutely. And to anyone who asks about the accident, I always note that although it was by far the most terrifying thing I’ve been through, it is so important that it happened. I needed it.

Sometimes the most uncomfortable things that you go through are the things you need to most, or the things that shape you the most. It feels awful but you need to get through the shit to get on to the next good thing. 

The hard thing is, it’s really easy to just dismiss the experience. You might acknowledge it, and then instantly move away from it. But that’s not the same thing as actually coping with it. 

I feel that parallel with going to Mexico right after the accident; it distracted me so much that I was on cloud 9 and thought things were great, like “oh I was in a car accident no big deal life is great” but then I went back home and WHAM it just hit me.

And then I had to sit with it.

And it was horrible. I was terrified to move my arm, I couldn’t drive in cars. When I actually sat with it, I finally realized how much it had fucked with me. Whereas if I had stayed in Tulum, and just lived in that retreat world, I don’t know if I would have ever dealt with it.

It’s important to come to terms with those feelings. Because it’s going to come back to you at some point, whether it’s buried deep or just on the surface, there’s a nagging effect that becomes dangerous. Ignoring it might feel great in the moment but the longer you let it fester - like letting food sit out - the more it decays and that transformation can eventually become irreversible. 
 


Is your attention most focussed on past, present or future?

Mostly present at the moment. Back when I was living at home, I was always thinking ten steps ahead. But now I find myself naturally preoccupied with what’s happening immediately around me. I’ve become much better at just letting things come as they may, and rolling with the punches. Innately, I am a planner! But travelling, and literally being thrown off course with the accident, taught me that life's movements are not always up to me. So now I worry less about whats going to happen and I tend to focus on the present.

 

From that standpoint, do you allow yourself to have a bigger picture in mind? Is there anything you’re working towards? 

I would like to focus more on myself. That sounds a bit selfish. But I would love to have my own business, work to my own schedule, and have the freedom to do other things - like taking a pottery class, or spending an afternoon in the park. That’s what I’m working towards; to find that balance of working but also still having time and energy to go and do things for me.

 

How do you think you can cultivate that setup?

I don’t know! I don’t know where I’m headed, so I don’t know how to choose my next step. It feels like there are lots of potential paths laid out before me, but I’m not sure which one to start walking. 

I have had some recent inquiries about my photography - that could be a good start. Getting back into the creative field in general would be good for me, rather than worrying about specifically which creative alley I’m going down.

Again, just going with the flow and not planning it too much. Because I have realized that this idea of thinking “in 5 years I’m gonna be here, then in 10 years I’m gonna be here” - that’s not gonna work. You can say it, hope for it, and work towards it, but honestly who’s to say if it’s gonna happen? 

Things happen at their own pace, on their own time, however they want. They may not be aligned with whatever you think you want. 

I’m letting go of expectations. Sure, I wanna work towards being professionally independent, but at the same time I’m not actively making strides. I’m just letting things play out on their own; letting the pieces fall where they may and then working with them once they’ve landed.

 

I feel like that’s the ideal that everyone’s working for - to have an idea, but let it come to term on it’s own!

I’ve had so many experiences of things not going the way I had planned, so it makes sense to me to reduce disappointment by allowing things to happen at their own will. There is no controlling how it all works and that could be why I sometimes leave my health to chance, instead of taking care of myself. Part of me thinks it’s better just to deal with things as they come up, rather than working too hard to prevent things when you can’t even be sure that they would or wouldn’t happen to you! I find it’s less stressful this way. 

It’s the lazy man’s way to do life. But it’s easy going, and enjoyable too.

 

What would you say is the most important lesson that has emerged from your most recent years?

The most prominent thing would be that… every little thing’s gonna be alright!!! 

It really is so true and should be everyones motto for life.

I use that philosophy on a daily basis, from the little things to the big things.

Like if I burn my toast in the morning - it’s okay, no big deal. 

If I miss my bus - it’s ok, there’s going to be another one. 

If I’m late to work - not the end of the world. 

That’s how I’ve started moving through life: Don’t stress - if something bad does happen, it’s gonna be okay. It might feel horrible, and getting through it might be a real struggle, but life will go on.

There was a point after the accident when I thought I might have to check into a mental facility because I was so distraught and struggling to function. But I also thought getting through that was going to be life-changing. And it was, but not in the way I had imagined…

I feel like we create a lot of excess stress for ourselves but we don’t have to.

I’ve had anxiety in the past and I tend to overthink things, so I’ve had to really learn how to cater for all my little nuances because now I know how important it is to be mentally healthy. I’ve seen people let stress really get to them, and it’s impacted their lives in negative ways, so I like to be open to the shit that crops up and know that it will be ok no matter what. 

 

How have you learned to cater for your nuances?

It’s been a long learning process.

I’ve seen counsellors and therapists, I used to talk a lot to my Mum, I’ve gone through shit on my own until I figured out what was really going on - all of those things combined.

I’ve experienced challenges in the past, (and I’m sure I will continue to in the future), and found ways of dealing with them. The difference is that used to be a major effort, but now (with practice) it comes much more naturally, it happens almost as a reflex.

The more you do something, the more it becomes a habit. Hopefully I’m cultivating more helpful habits now!
 


***

CÉLINE CHHEA
 

Celine1

How old are you?

30 ’n’ fabulous!

 

Does awareness of your age affect how you interact with other people?

In social situations it doesn’t really matter. But I find in a professional context that people - especially men - often think I’m younger than I am and will use that as a reason to patronize me.

 

How do you respond to that?

I play with it. As a girl, it’s something you have to live with; you’re always going to be patronized in certain situations.
You can’t change the way someone else has chosen to behave towards you, but if you think it’s wrong, you can turn it against them. 

 

Celine2

Do you feel any noticeable differences in yourself now compared to five or ten years ago?

I’m more surprised by the lack of differences. If I was to write something in a diary now and compare it to something I wrote when I was twenty, it would probably say the same thing. My thoughts are split between thinking about what I can be / what I want to be, and what lies ahead. Also reminiscing about the “good old days”; nostalgia for being a kid. 

And I remember having those thoughts when I was twenty. Feeling like all the best days were behind me. I don’t think that ever goes away. Especially as you grow older, you’re always going to look back on happy times. So there’s not a lot of difference but it’s just that I’ve created more happy times and more things to miss over the last ten years. But I haven’t changed that outlook of missing what has passed.

 

Does that outlook give you hope or inspiration for the future, in that you’ll continue to collect good memories and great people that will become part of your future nostalgia? There’s a sense there that your best days are not behind you - that there are actually more in front of you; more to come.

Now, I’m able to be somewhere with all my friends and pause to scan the room and look at each person with a mixture of happiness and sadness. It’s weird because they’re right there, but in that moment I feel like I'm missing them, because I know that night is going to end and I’m going to home and not be with them. I know how to inhabit that moment as something special.
I’m aware that I’m creating a memory. 

I think knowing how much you’re going to miss things forces you to be very present and to enjoy those experiences while they’re happening. When you’re younger, it’s the first time you’re experiencing everything so you’re more immersed in the excitement of novelty. It’s all a blur - it’s almost like you’re drunk the whole time - it goes so fast and there’s no awareness that you might not feel that way forever. But as you grow older, when you’ve had all those experiences and you know how they feel, you start wanting to hold on to them for a bit longer. 

Now it’s almost like I project myself into the future by anticipating how I’ll feel down the line, and using that knowledge to impact my current level of appreciation.

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What characterizes the decade between 20 and 30 that you don’t think is as relevant in other decades of our lives?

The idea that you’ve got all the time in the world and everything is possible. The world is your oyster… but you’re also so broke! 

It’s that friction between dreaming big but at the same time feeling frustrated because you hit real limitations. You’re limited by the physical world, but what you feel within yourself is just crazy energy, crazy dreams, crazy want, all the time. One day you genuinely think you could work for Nasa, and the next day it’s something completely different - there’s a lot of passion there.
What’s more, there’s permission to feel that way at this age. 

But because there are so many interesting things that grab your attention, you spread yourself thin, and it takes you longer to get collected and realize you don’t even have to chase after some of it.

I also think your late twenties are when you start to understand what a real relationship is; what a real friendship is. 

The people that I make effort to stay in touch with now are the people I think are worth it - they’re the people I really want in my life. Whereas when you’re in your early twenties you’re like this social butterfly and every person / every relationship that blossoms seems just as important as the one next to it.
But as time moves on you become more ruthless in terms of how you let go of certain relationships.

 

Who (or what) inspires you?

Everything and everyone. There’s always something in there. It doesn’t have to be big, but it’ll still have some sort of influence.

 

What’s important to you?

People. Family.

Do you have anything that makes you feel anchored, within yourself or in your life?

Not really. I’ve always felt quite untethered. I’ve had multiple homes, and multiple lives in a way… I guess [my husband] can make me feel grounded - he’s so wise and pragmatic, he could be my emotional anchor. But my personality is generally quite floaty. 

 

Do you find it easier to be authentic in certain situations, or with any particular people?

With my own family and my own friends, it’s the easiest; they see me as I am.
But at work I put on a role. With my husband’s family I have another role.

I think there are several versions of a person.

 

How do you think that fits into the idea of authenticity?

I think it’s impossible to always present the same person. Doing what is required of you in a certain situation, even if it isn’t a complete representation of your entire personality, is sometimes what is needed. It’s not necessarily fake - it is a version of you - but a tailored one. 

I don’t mind society being this way. On the one hand ideally we would all be completely at ease and ourselves the whole time, but on the other hand this slight constriction also helps to implement a polite boundary if, for example, we cross paths with someone we’re not interested in. In that case there are very simple ways to remove yourself from the interaction! 

But whether or not you / the person in front of you are playing a certain role to begin with, I think you can always tell if they are someone you will get along with in the long run.

 

I had an interesting conversation recently with another friend about authenticity, particularly in the context of social media and filtered information, and his point of view was that it’s okay to curate what you’re willing to share online, because you take your realness to your intimate friends. For example, if you have an issue, you don’t share it with the world, you share it with someone who knows you deeply and you move through it with them. 

I think it’s more about integrity over authenticity. 

Even if you have tailored behaviour with people, as long as it’s still true to yourself, it’s okay. Being authentic is really hard because I have a hard time figuring out who I am or how I’m feeling most of the time - so how can I be authentic?
But you always know what you believe in, what your values are, that doesn’t really change with mood. 

 

Celine5

What are your values then?

Number one would be integrity. 

I am friends with people I totally disagree with. Some of them are very religious, really selfish, seduced by consumerism, and I totally disagree with all that! But they don’t lie about it - they own it. That’s who they are, and I admire that. Even if I don’t agree, I’m able to have respect, and respect creates a stronger bond. When I refer to people as “fake”, I don’t necessarily mean that they’re inauthentic. It has more to do with their integrity. Like people who say one thing but then act against what they’ve said - how does that make sense? That makes it hard to trust them, and in turn hard to respect. 

Number two is solidarity. 

 

In relationships?

In general. In humanity. And I’m not even a “people person”! I’m not an extrovert. I like staying at home and having a really good conversation with one person rather than chit-chatting with a hundred people in a bar. Whereas [my husband] is the opposite. He loves chit-chatting! 

Lastly it would be justice and fairness. 

And Robin has a similar set of values, which is why I think [our relationship] works. He has a totally different personality, different background, different music, food, humour, but because our moral compass is the same, it doesn’t matter.


What would 30 year old you say to 20 year old you?

Probably that it’s all ok. Whatever it is. Make mistakes - it’s all ok in the end. 

It’s not like I feel I have a whole lot of experience to infuse into advice for someone! And I don’t want to be the one to tell her “it’s kinda the same, you’ll always be this fucking confused!” 

 

But I think I would see that as a comfort - you’re almost saying "hey you don’t have to worry - this is just how it feels to be human.”

Maybe. 

 

Do you have an aspiration that you’re working towards; a bigger picture? 

My bigger picture is very fuzzy. It’s more like having a true north: It doesn’t matter what the picture is going to look like exactly, but it’s going to be in a certain sort of direction. 

You know when you see a shooting star or blow out candles and you make a wish? Well, my wish hasn’t changed since I was ten and it has always been: I want to be happy, and make people around me happy.  

I don’t know what that bigger picture will look like, but if those things are true, that’ll be enough.

It is enough.

 

Celine6