Even at the coldest place, at the coldest night…

When I was a kid I once heard a story at school that has stuck with me all the way through until now.

If ever you feel like you’re losing your way a bit, or if ever you’re struggling through a bit of a bleak patch perhaps it might help you.

Once upon a time, in a world not so different to ours, there lived a lumberjack. He was a really nice guy who would do anything for his friends and was well respected in the community.

He was also renowned for being fearless and would never turn down a challenge or a dare.

The land where he lived (probably Scotland) got really, really cold at nights – so as soon as it got cold everyone would stop working and gather in the local pub by the roaring log fire.

Some miles away from the settlement where they lived stood a mountain. As it was up so high, it was seen as the coldest spot on the land and no one ventured there without very good reason.

One evening, after a few too many mugs of ale, the lumberjack was challenged to spend a night on the mountain with just a small blanket. It would be the true test to just how tough he claimed to be.

Whether it was the beer or just his stupid male bravado, I’m not sure, but he said yes.

(I can only imagine that he woke up in the morning with a splitting headache and thought ‘what the fuck have I signed up for!?’)

Being such a proud guy he couldn’t go back on his word, and so off he went that evening – with just a small blanket to keep him company.

His friends said farewell. And, so there he was. Left to his own devices as the bone-chilling cold began to set in.

The first few hours were okay, but then things got worse and worse.

He spent the hours thinking only of how cold he was. Nothing else. And it made it worse and worse.

But then he noticed something. A candle in the window of a house many miles away. The flame was burning confidently and, asides from the twilight moon, it was the only light he could see.

And so he watched it. This one bright thing in the distance. It made him feel warm. And it gave him hope.

The candle burnt through the night, and by the time his friends came to pick him up at 6am in the morning it was still going.

If he hadn’t have kept concentrating on that one light in the distance, do you think he would have made it through the night?

The positives are out there. We just need to look for them.

Everyone else is weird, so don’t worry if you are too.

Once you admit you’re weird
Life gets a bit easier.

You’ll wonder what you ever feared.
‘Cos everyone else is weird.

Your reputation won’t be smeared.
‘Cos everyone else is weird.

Everyone’s foggy mind
is full of things that are weird.

To your fellow weirdos you should be kind.
‘Cos everyone else is weird.

As everyone else goes through the daily grind
they all just want to go home and be weird.

Yep, it’s true, if you really think it through
you’ll find that everyone else is weird too.

by Ashley age 27 & 3/4

For a moment everything was clear…

For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.” – S. King

Speed awareness

Not too many years ago I had to go on a speed awareness course.

Usually, if anything, I drive a bit too slow.

But, as luck would have it, I was caught doing 34 in a 30.

Yep. It was marginal. But still, I’d gone too fast.

Now, speed awareness courses aren’t known for being fun.

This one lived up to that hype.

But, still, it was only 4 hours and as long as I paid attention and let them get on with it, it would be over quickly – right?

Wrong.

The problem wasn’t me. The problem was the other participants.

You see, I’ll let you into a secret….most people don’t like being wrong.

Even if they are.

And I found myself in a room full of people who didn’t like the fact they’d done something wrong.

Now, the format of these sessions is fairly simple. Two instructors take you through a few powerpoints and you watch some videos.

But, things were a lot slower…because, at every given opportunity, a lot of the participants were coming up with excuses.

Grown men and women coming up with monologues, like school children trying to get out of trouble with the headmaster.

And so, what should have been around four hours, ended up lasting an extra hour and a half.

Once the excuses were done that same majority, annoyed that their excuses fell on deaf ears,  busied themselves by challenging the two instructors at every possible point.

Boy, did that session drag on.

We need to remind ourselves that sometimes we are wrong.

In my day-to-day life, whether it be at work or while being social, I’m wrong. And that’s okay. I’m allowed to be wrong.

On a side note, sometimes I think life needs a speed awareness course…as it moves way too fast.

Although, on a serious note, don’t speed. Get up earlier.

The radio always plays the same songs

If you’ve ever listened to a popular radio station for an extended period of time you’ll know that the same songs are played over and over again.

A lot of people don’t like that.

So that’s why streaming sites such as Spotify have become some popular. Because people want to be able to choose what they listen to, and find an easier way to discover new songs that they’ll like.

It’s the same with TV and Netflix.

We want choice, choice, choice and more choice.

Long gone are the days when the TV listings would decide your night’s entertainment.

But, with choice comes indecision.

It’s the same with dating apps.

A huge chunk of the population swipe through face after face, almost desensitising themselves to the actual people that lie beyond the profile photo and blurb.

When it comes to our lives as a whole now – how is having so much choice affecting our way of thinking?

Relationships, jobs, studies – are we as determined to fight for them when they aren’t going right?

Or, does such a world of opportunities make us not want to try as hard because we live safe in the knowledge that ‘there’s always something else out there’?

Do faraway Instagram images steal us away from anything remotely challenging by convincing us to try and find another version of paradise?

It’s definitely not all bad, of course, but I don’t think it’s all good either.

 

The coffee cup that showed me I wasn’t the only person in the world

It was a busy Thursday morning in London, and I hadn’t slept very well the night before.

So, it only made sense to pick up a super-charged coffee on my way to work.

I didn’t have time to browse my options too much and, like it or not, I settled on  Starbucks.

It was near and it was easy. (Although usually those aren’t my key drivers for making most decisions in life!)

As anyone who’s ever set foot in a Starbucks in the last ten years will know they’re still continuing with the whole ‘make it personal’ thing by asking you with for your name.

I don’t really like my name all that much (but, if I changed it I’d have one less thing to complain about, and I need my go-tos) – yet, as creative as I think I am, I can never think up another name in time… so I end up going with the one I was born with, ‘Ashley’.

It was a busy day in this particular Starbucks but I’m British, so I’m good at queuing and was able to persevere.

(Which makes me think, as much as I was wholly against it myself, why are so many of the British people who voted leave complaining about how long it’s taking to initiate Brexit… aren’t they supposed to love waiting and queuing to do something!?)

Eventually the barista sang out my name and, with flushed cheeks, I head over and collected my steam beverage.

I had just gotten outside the door when I heard an American voice shouting ‘Wait! Wait!’

I turned round to see that an irate-looking woman with red hair had chased me out of the cafe.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Is your name Ashley?” she bellowed back.

“Er…yeah…why?” I answered.

“It’s definitely Ashley?” she reiterated.

I confirmed and, with a tut, she hurried off. I thought about going after her to find out what that was all about but, one thing I’ve learnt since living in London, is that a lot of weird things happen and you’d waste valuable time trying to work each one out.

The tube station was next to the Starbucks, and I was just about to head through the turnstiles and into the tunnel when the same woman appeared next to me.

“Sorry about that!” she exclaimed, “my name’s Ashley too. I always pre-order my Starbucks and I was worried you’d walked off with it”.

There are 7.6 billion people in the world.

8.7 people in London alone.

And yet, we still think we’re the only person in the world at times.

I know I do it too.

But, according to Google, there are 212 people (in the UK alone) with my same exact first name and last name as me.

It’s worth keeping this mind as we try to understand each others’ perspectives. Whether we be trying to get a message across to someone, or trying to sell something.

We’re all unique. No one’s an island.

(If anyone cares, the Starbucks in the right of the featured picture is the exact Starbucks it happened in!)