Happy Valentine’s Day, Adam. I am so in love with the person that I am. Proud of the actions I take, the mistakes I make and the lessons I earn. It always feels like a long way to go, the moment you acknowledge you’re already here is the moment you know. Perfect in this moment. Perfect now. Tomorrow might not come, so keep your progress above your goals. Recognise where you’ve come from before you fantasise about the distance to go. When you’re proud of where you are, it does not matter the direction you go.
Periods of Change
My name is Adam. I’m a human being. Like you, I have many problems. My life is far from the perfect vision of money, cars and success we see in portrayed in the news and media. A far cry from the 24/7 high we proudly display on Instagram and Facebook. Everyday I feel like I could be doing better in a thousand different ways. My mind is constantly striving for improvement and change. Racing around at the suggestion of something being beneficial for my spiritual, physical, or emotional development. I’ve come to love my mind for what it is. Although that wasn’t always the case.
Way back in 2011 when I started university for the first time, it was, as it normally is, a period of massive change. I was living independently. Away from the refuge of lovingly, home cooked food and someone to keep a gentle eye on my bedtime. My mum always noticed – and informed me of – the bags under my eyes. Now, I would be co-inhabiting a living space with four other young men. Bright eyed and bushy tailed as my dad would say. Eager to experience all that life had to offer. I was fuelled by black out booze and a lust for casual interactions with the opposite sex. Eagerly attempting to lose my virginity with some semblance of grace and poise, although that grace and poise disappeared when out on the prowl. My actions during my first year at University were, at times, conflicting to the person I felt I wanted to be. Three or four nights a week I would be out drinking. Howling at women who would talk to me. Gawking at the rest. Finding friendship in a few, amongst the hormonal noise. My actions seemed normal. It was what my friends were doing. Why couldn’t I be content? I was normal wasn’t I? Or was I?
The internal conflict I was experiencing continued to grow within my mind. Fuelled by the Guinness, beer and vodka I claimed to enjoy so much. Yet the feeling was unavoidable. The hangovers became more than a physical discomfort. They were a mental onslaught that I came to crave, as if the only escape from the nagging hangover was another beer. I remember one night I paused my predrinking activities for a quick toilet break. Sticking both fingers down my throat I coerced the ill feeling out of my stomach with a splash. A crash. I returned to the kitchen and downed my drink as a hero amongst men. Nobler for the experience of overcoming the night before. Anchor Sundays, Havana Mondays, Anchor Tuesdays, Kellys Wednesdays and Thursday Club – my midweek diary. Some days there would have been classes. My grades sinking faster than you could say yes to another jaeger bomb?
Amongst the booze and conflict there were a trial of emails from my concerned studies advisor. Worried about why my attendance had slipped and why I wasn’t responding (an early introduction to ghosting). I say a trial; there were two. Then he left the ball in my court for me to take action, but I was playing a different game. The pain within me was growing by the day. I had sacked off all my classes because I didn’t see the point. Change was coming but I didn’t know how. Naively convincing myself that StudyUSA held the answer to all my problems. Pouring hours into researching the perfect university, the perfect second choice and exploring the endless options that would await me. No longer confined to computing and business modules. I dreamt of Japanese and culinary classes. And everything in between. Just to convince myself I was doing something. I was doing something. Procrastinating.
There came a point of no return. A point where something had to change. So I choose to change my degree. Just before my nineteenth birthday I walked in for a chat with my studies advisor. By this point I had it all figured out. I was going to apply for Marketing at Jordanstown. I had the necessary BBB at A-Level. I had great first year marks, a first class student, who managed to strike a balance for a while. I also had the support and love of my amazing family. Especially my mother, who to this day continues to support me in every decision that I make. Continues to tell me that she loves me. Not despite or in spite of my mistakes, but because of them. Because the mistakes we make are what make us, individuals. After my degree I would get a job in marketing in Northern Ireland for a couple of years. To get some experience. Because everyone knows you need experience and it’s better to get experience at the bottom when you’re in Northern Ireland because Northern Ireland is small and there’s less competition and it’s not as expensive and it’s home and it’s this and it’s that and this or that and so much else that I can’t even comprehend or begin to remember right now. What I’m trying to say is my mind was out of control. It was affecting every decision I was making because I gave it so much power. I fed it the superfood of self doubt. Each pint I drank quenched the thirst of resistance. Preying on my anxieties. Gorging on the conflict I was creating with each action that was untrue to myself.
Opportunities Arising From Depression
Before writing any of this, I read a young man share his story of his battle with anxiety and depression. House bound and down. Didn’t want to see the world. Afraid of what his mind would condemn in the people and things around him. As I read through his incredible article, my mind thought, hold on. What if depression is your mind and body saying, these things that you’re doing. All this drinking and these video games. All this socialising, where you get drunk until you pass out or vomit. Encouraged by the collective male psyche that surrounds you. That surrounds all your friends. That surrounds our society and culture. All these things, that you feel you have to do, to be normal. What if they’re not meant for you? What if depression or anxiety, a mental challenge, is something that you can use as the catalyst for change within yourself. Because that’s the only way we have any semblance of control over change. And even then, we don’t have control over the outcomes.
For me, my mind has been up and down and left to right for a while. It’s no longer something I try and change but something I am learning to accept, fully. Learning to accept the way that I see the world and to act in a way that reduces the internal conflict I feel. It’s still there. It burns inside me. The fire has been lit and there’s no stopping it. While it spreads like wildfire, I’ve found an outlet for it, it’s got some direction now. I fan the flame every time I put pen to paper. And I humble the fire each time I meditate. I want to feel the fire within me. Under my direction. Each day is a new beginning. If you wake up, you’re granted the opportunity to have one more day on earth, don’t spend it fighting with yourself. If you’re sad, be sad. Go into that feeling of loneliness or resentment or hatred or whatever emotion it is you are feeling. Allow it to sweep over you. And love yourself anyway. Because you’re perfect. It doesn’t matter if you’re happy, sad, angry or not really anything in particular. You are you. Be you completely. I love you.
Sometimes your best intentions are completely misinterpreted and all you can do is accept that and move on. I sent **** a message to say thank you for recommending a book to me. I returned a recommendation by suggesting she watch Nola Darling because a scene in it reminded me of her shouting at a passing car. Nola Darling showed me something I hadn’t recognised before and I felt there were similarities to ****’s behaviour in that. Her actions didn’t inspire me or make me feel like a good feminist or anything of the kind. For me, feminism is about equality and it is difficult to relate to the challenges women face on a daily basis. So, when a TV show (or anything else) can force me to reevaluate my perceptions, I’m grateful for that.
What can I do to be more understanding? How can I possibly begin to relate without understanding? **** told me to take a step back and humble myself in my approach to feminism. Everyday I attempt to do that. I try to listen first and speak only when I have something meaningful to say. I was confused as to why anyone would react with venom and anger to something that’s driving away. I was confused as to why venom and anger is a reaction for anyone, but my perception changed watching Nola Darling and I felt I could empathise.
Empathise in that I can see your point of view – from my privileged position – of that incident. Not that I condone it. Or belittle it. Not with any intention of being condescending. I’m trying to live a life of empathy, love and compassion. Sometimes I should just keep that to myself.
Why is it so strange to message someone you have been intimate with? Any time I share my bed with someone, I share myself and my vulnerabilities. I relish my own struggles too much to make anyone else’s my focus; my muse. Although, I find the suggestion amusing (can’t do anything other than laugh). Is it not condescending to suggest my attempts at understanding are merely for my own benefit? Why bother?
Why bother trying to relate to women’s problems? Bother, because men, woman and children are equal. Bother, because you want to live in a world that doesn’t consider empathy condescending. That’s your world, Adam. Your intentions are clear in your head. There’s not much you can do to prevent others misinterpreting our words. Get your message straight from the outset. There was nothing condescending in my head when I sent **** that message. Not even trying to be friendly. Not wanting anything. Just trying to say happy new year, thank you for a lovely night together and trying to start the year off on my terms. Trying to understand what it means to be connected in 2018. I’m curious about what makes people do what they do. I guess that’s going to lead to a few misunderstandings. Put it down to experience and move on. Probably a good idea to stop sending super intense messages on WhatsApp. It’s OK to be an intense person but do it in person.
Talk to ***** about this. Talk to her about a man’s role in feminism. You’re doing great. You’re learning and you’re humble enough to crave more learning. Don’t let that go because of one persons interpretation of your intent. Find your muse within yourself, as you have done in the past. My interpretation of shared experience is mine alone. Indulge in that because nobody can take that from you. A kind word, antagonistically misunderstood. Creating anger from within, it simmers to the surface. Your empathy is condescending. Correct the definition. Life is never filled with clarity, but your intentions can be. Treat everyone with love and compassion. Even those who wrong you. Your sensitivities don’t earn you privileges. You were born with them between your legs. It’s not for you to apologise for that. Take your privileged position and use it as a platform. To scream, shout and echo the words of those who have been wronged. To kick up a fuss. A full-on riot if needs be. Try; fail; learn; grow. Forget the tensions and the ill feelings. Hold on dearly to the lessons.
Domingo 21st – Always feel inspired after speaking to Dermy. Even when I’m in a mood. He is always open to listening and taking advice, which I feel eternally driven to give. Working on knowing when to just listen, instead of providing solutions, but often silence says more than words are capable off.
Lunes 22nd – Found out that Denis turned pro today. Couldn’t be more proud of him. I have so much love and admiration for him, even in the face of our stark differences. He’s done it though! I hope I can achieve my goals with a fraction of the style and self-honesty Denis has. The day began with a long message from Jamie, fairly bemoaning his suffering at the hands of Denis. Being ignored is painful. Both guilty of and fell victim to.
Martes 23rd – Chicos, please! Behave yourselves. Have some respect when your classmates are talking. If you keep talking, you will have to eat lunch with me for the rest of the week. You don’t want that do you? “I don’t mind. It might be fun.” Damnit! That’s supposed to be a punishment.
Miercoles 24th – A French movie with Spanish subtitles with a woman who speaks four languages. The imagery capturing all the vulnerability I couldn’t comprehend from words alone. AIDs activists, losing hope as their clocks tick on relentlessly towards D day. As I began to feel emotional, I reached for Saray’s hand and found it waiting for me. Holding each other in our fingertips as we silently wept.
Jueves 25th – Rang Dermy as I began walking. He was distracted when he answered. Completely mirroring the feelings I hadn’t acknowledged. Here I was walking home a different way. With a spring still in my legs after bounding up the escaleras with humour on my mind. With two headphones in trying to do it all. So I shut up. So did Dermy. I didn’t notice the call dropping out. There was no apology needed from either party. No apology even offered. A simple “try again” accepting everything that came before.
Viernes 26th – “Do you want me to draw you?” Hector throwing down the gauntlet for himself. A turbulent five minutes – emotions riding high. One moment revelling in being the centre of attention, the next questioning every ego driven decision I’ve ever made. It felt intense to be drawn… and I couldn’t help but smile. I would like to be a nude art model, in a pleasantly heated room (to appease my ego). Next time don’t break eye contact. Don’t even try.
Sabado 27th – We had been together all day – doing one thing or another. Walking around our city; our home; our playground. Meeting Thierno and Beltza, no need to seek approval for a friend from my friend. We meandered back to Saray’s house for some lunch, on Spanish time. Lying down in silence afterwards. Silently exploring, slowly removing clothes but not all.
Domingo 28th – Coming down the mountain. Running here and there. Tssh, tsssh, tsssshhhh, tttssssssshhhhhiing as we go. Thierno and I; stride for stride. Sun shining from the sky and our hearts as we roll down the hill. Jumping on and spinning off any ledges we can find. Even taking a slam as i try to move my body in new shapes and ways.
Lunes 29th – Cooking with Kristina. She had all the answers behind her noisy mind. A mind that says “I don’t know! LET’S PANIC!” Took some photos I’m really proud to share. Captured all the attitude in one glance. Dinner was delicious, albeit rather late. None of us too bothered by that little turn of fate.
Martes 30th – An unexpected phonecall from Robin as I stood outside Baobo. Such a pleasant surprise and a potential rule to follow. If they’re online as you type, just call your friends.
Miercoles 31st – The most mysterious present I have received in a while. The wrapping paper threw me completely. Gave me lots of reasons to smile. A book about the words not spoken. Read what between the lines and languages as you attempt to understand. What a beautiful message for an inspiring poet.
Jueves 1st – More sketching today. A tranquil little challenge of love and self-acceptance. Each line is perfect. Release your expectations. Let go of your inhibitions. Sitting in the laundromat, as my clothes dry off. Barely noticing the world around as perfection leads from my hand.
Viernes 2nd – Ever used lube, George? “No, I don’t find it necessary.” Fair, but are dildos necessary? “More than lube.” It’s a real joy with lube though. I can lend you some if you like? “Have you got a few?” Two. One normal. One premium. “Oh, I see.” Wonderful to be able to talk so openly about this, don’t you think?
Sabado 3rd – After packing away my shopping, I headed over to San Francisco for the street market. So far this month my spending has been tidy enough to afford the lavish purchase of a beautiful black cruiser; The Flying Dutchman. A tiny little bike compared to my disproportional height but she is a cracker. Designed to be cycled around like a gentleman through the streets of Bilbao. A welcome change to my usual frenzy.
Domingo 7th – It took a lot longer than expected but finally made it home. Huge thanks to Javier who basically held my hand through the night and kept me company. Walking off the bus I felt like I was coming home. To a city I love. To a piso that feels like my own. To the challenges and joys I am happy to be a part of. Saw Kristina and got a huge hug. Spoke to my mum, dad, Robin, Ilenia and Colin – family and friends all over the world. Plenty of energy from Thierno and a warm embrace from my amigo Darragh. Excited to get back to school tomorrow. Back to the wonderful challenge of teaching.
Lunes 8th – Aupa hombre! Tienes un recomendacion para de musique clasical? Tu gusta clasical? Es unusual para persona tienes trienta anos tu gusta clasical. Trienta!? Yo tengo viente cuatro anos! This stranger made his recommendations – Bach – and we parted ways. Music that has the quality to span decades. That’s immortality. Or as close as we’ll ever get.
Martes 9th – Found it quite surprising to read more boys than girls with questions or expectations concerning their bodies, aged twelve and thirteen. Boys that have barely begun to grow, wishing their bodies were bigger, slimmer, stronger or just less skinny. Who is speaking out for these young men, under the pressure of a patriarchy they didn’t ask for.
Miercoles 10th – Her hand went up to her mouth and it caught my attention. Before the motion had finished I snapped my fingers and shouted “EH!” for dramatic effect. Elsa said she wanted to stop biting her nails in 2018. She’s not the only one. More oranges will keep them coming up strong. In the meantime, I’ll shout everytime she puts her hand near her mouth.
Jueves 11th – Natasha sent me the most incredible birthday message. It removed the issue of age, which has overshadowed previous celebrations. Thirteen, sixteen, eighteen. Twenty-one. All of these proclaimed milestones. Natasha told me to celebrate the goodness of me. Celebrate the kind, caring person I am today. I already do that every day and it was amazing to share it with so many beautiful people today.
Viernes 12th – “Iker, why haven’t you done your homework?” I whispered from the chair behind. On a level basis. Just two human beings making eye contact. “I was at the hospital. My brother’s memory is gone.” We worked our way to a solid translation but the initial message was clear. ‘You’re a wonderful brother, being there for him.” “I don’t think I am.” “Iker, you are perfect. You are an amazing human.” “Thanks, Adam” he replied as he let out a hint of a smile.
Sabado 13th – Let’s meditate. OK let me message Darragh first. No. Why? Because it can wait five minutes. Why though? Take five minutes for yourself. I took her phone off her. Angry at the importance she was placing on it. We were already well past the intended meeting time. What difference would another five minutes make? I pressed play on the five-minute miracle and began to breathe deeply. Kristina sat, legs folded, thumbs rolling and eyes darting around the room to avoid my gaze. I don’t know what she did for those five minutes, but my imagination wasn’t concerned.
Domingo 14th – Seasons stay the same but relationships change. My relationship with Kristina is changing. We are leaving behind the novel acceptance of one another’s flaws. It’s easy to point fingers and make accusations but ultimately any resistance is futile. Instead, I am trying to accept. Accept my flaws. Accept her flaws. Embrace the change.
Lunes 15th – “Aupa! Savan*?” I cried out as I entered the Tabac in Casco Viejo. Near the library. A bit of family activity planning fresh in my mind from teatro Arriaga. Dos stampas para cartas irlanda y uno para unidos reinados. Not much eye contact, so not much conversation. No holding back on my way out though. “Eskerrik asko! Ego arte! Agurr!” I saw a grin appear on his face and it grew mine even wider.
Martes 16th – You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t please everybody all the time. Living this in school as relationships change. As if I’m moving on. Content with the manner of my actions. Would be cool to listen to some more grime. But just put the work into anything and forget about being cool. Just be concerned with understanding what you’re teaching.
Miercoles 17th – “Adam, esta la cena de Vasco!” “Si! Es importante!” Tonight I shared some food with three beautiful people; Monis, Ibone and Manu. Mucho conversacion en espanol. Es dificil pero es muy agradisoso. Muy bueno. There will be many more occasions like it. Of that, I have no doubt. Look forward to spending time with Manu. Eres un guapo y muy interesante.
Jueves 18th – Bouncing around the classroom feeling filled with energy. Literally running around. Half in the clouds as they are consumed by colour, half in the room. Surrounded by wonderful young men and women who look at me with respect and admiration It’s what they see staring back at them; love, respect and admiration.
Viernes 19th – Lots of give and take with Artiz today. One of the nicest teachers, lots of respect and admiration for him. Today we spoke at length about veganism. Gave each other plenty to think about. After school, we practised a little Tai Chi. Circular motions, wide squat, blocking a punch and swiping away a kick. Clearing the fog from the mountains. A patient teacher and an attentive learner.
Sabado 20th – If there’s no DJ in five minutes I’m going home. My watch confirming that intention as it chimes 2:15am. As I pulled my sleeve down the volume went up a notch or four. Booming jazz. Swinging me to my feet. Body, happily obliging. First man on the dancefloor. Quickly followed by a beautiful crowd.
Did some video mashing tonight.
Naked headstands, for Noemi.
Feels like a fun way to interpret,
the poem I wrote for her.
How long will she stay on my mind,
as the one that got away?
She’s still in my heart today.
It all felt so easy, to be with her, you see.
In silence, in laughter, in blazing row,
I always wanted her. I loved her.
Too easy to romanticise the ones that get away.
Look to the present moment, Adam.
The unescapable reality of that place.
My monkey mind is seeking a distraction.
Craving getting blocked. Life is hard sometimes,
but running isn’t the solution.
Or is it? Time to take Irlanda for a walk.
There’s so much to see and do and say;
I’m fixated on your memory,
The times just you and I.
A supernova in my life,
That was too quick to die.
See you walking down the street,
Some hair up in a bun.
Feel your breath in mine,
As I sit in contemplation on my bum.
You met me as my best self,
I set my bar quite high.
Yet one mistake later,
You hung me out to try.
I want to say I’m sorry,
For the errors I did not see.
They sit in unknown darkness,
Staring back at me.
Since I met you,
Underwear doesn’t feel the same.
Since I met you,
I haven’t been able to shoulder the blame.
Since I met you,
My life has karate flipped upside down.
Since I met you,
My world now has Spaniards all around.
Since I left you,
I have been full of suspicion.
Since I left you,
I haven’t trusted my intuition.
Since you left me,
My heart has screamed in anguish.
Since you left me,
My soul has been left to languish.
I know exactly where you are.
To walk, to run, to swim, it is too far.
So with this verse, I close the book.
Feeling not like a King or lover, but a crook.
Meander over to three incredible men. Intelligent, compassionate and faithful. Greeted like family. As always. High fives, fist bumps and hugs. “Aupa Jim!” “Que tal?” “Muy bien.” “How are you?” A beautiful sound carries these caring words. Gabon sounds like an incredible place. Green. Full of bicycles. Until I get there, I’ll spend time with her children in Bilbao.
Disco dancing in Kremlin. What a fantastic place. Dancefloor big enough for a 198cm stretch. Hands up to the sky. Dancing like there’s nobody watching. Anyone noticed gets a huge grin flashed back. This is fun. Dancing is wonderful.
The local continues to blow me away. Robert. The owner and bar man. Karate master. Aged 53. Poco a poco. Wrote over 100 goals today. Left enough room for translations. Without words I have to ask different questions. Robert is a crossword man. He will relish the challenge. Hopefully the kids will feel the same.
Finished a poem I wrote about Ilenia. She loved it. It was a therapeutic process. A joyful experience without worrying about the result. Have drafts for several more. Planning to hire someone to gather feedback online. Want to identify and enter competitions. Possibly even outsource production. If the focus moves to living the moment then the editing can be outsourced and continue the moment. Each attempt only having one take.
Live the movie you want to watch. Darragh had some wonderful goals. Watch a new movie every week. We are going to make music, films, poetry and much more together. Renaissance men. Surrounded by renaissance women. In our revolution. Plugged into the world we live in. Conscious. Contento.
Met the local drunk. “He is crazy!” they all said. We shared the only moment of silence in the bar tonight. Both stretching peacefully as we sat in our chairs. Watching the world unfold in front of us. We should all be a little crazy if this is the result.