When I started travelling 3 months ago my journey into the unknown was met with a feeling of stupidity and cowardice. I made a lot of hard decisions in order to make this happen, my words aren’t strong or succinct enough to make sense of that place. I felt like I was on self destruct and the people around were watching me struggle, it may not be accurate but it felt true. Travelling was my chance to take responsibility and put myself back together. I had to go, somewhere beneath my sugar coated words I understood I needed to go alone.
I am not afraid nor am I embarrassed about writing the things I feel, think or do in a blog, it’s been more cathartic than I could have imagined. I can at times find myself anxious about who reads this, maybe a future boss, maybe a future friend, maybe more, but I’m not a closed person, peoples judgements are a reflection only of themselves. I’ve found a lot of love in my life letting people get close.
And here lay the realisation…
I’d forgotten myself, the parts of me I loved the most seemed to be falling deeper and deeper into a fog that has steadily thickened. The me that was open, loud, silly, funny, the me that loved unconditionally, that put others before himself wasn’t in my reach anymore. Over the years my arms have become strong as they’ve formed a wall around my chest. Totally unavailable I’d sit in a room full of my closest friends and hope the floor would open its mouth and swallow me whole. I’d be with my boyfriend and feel like my hands were locked together behind my back, what’s heart breaking is I’d locked them.
I needed to find what was stopping me.
I wanted social Chris back and god damn I wasn’t letting him wander further out of reach. As the world around me got harder it never got the better of me, I knew this trip would shape me, blind hope had become my religion, my blog became my bible.
In my head I feared I was letting go of my career, in my heart I feared I was letting go of my future husband, but these are risks I had to take, I couldn’t love in that head space. I anxiously let my hands open and watched my need for control fall like sand between my fingers.
What happened is clear at this point, it’s only through taking space from my norms have my demons stood a chance of showing themselves. I’d collected the painful moments that have happened in my life and held them close. Year after year I’d allowed them to weigh me down, year after year they became heavier and heavier.
Until the tipping point hit…
3 years ago a guy reappeared in my life who I wasn’t ready for. To everyone else he was just another man, 2 legs, 2 arms, 2 eyes and a mouth. To my friends and those who knew my story he was poison, someone to never invite back in my life.
I’ve never lived by anyone else’s ideals, I follow my own beliefs, if I’m wrong then at least I’ve lived true to myself.
This guy made a decision a few weeks after Brenda died (my adopted mum), he left quickly and in silence. From losing one of the only people I’ve ever felt loved me, I’d suddenly lost the only person making effort to protect my heart. But that protection was gone by morning. It was this simple disappearing act that changed the last decade of my life, it was this simple act that forced me to question “is this all my fault?”.
At a friends birthday in a dank dark soho nightclub he reappeared after 5 years seemingly dead. Before I’d blinked at him twice I could have fallen to the floor. Everything around me fell silent, my friends, my boyfriend, there was nothing but that moment as he stood in my personal space.
Although my feelings have tried to muddle themselves in the past, I wasn’t in love, there was something powerful there, but it wasn’t love. We talked and repeatedly hugged as I watched him come back to life.
“Is he going to talk to me about what he did?” I thought to myself…
“Chris” he nervously started with his hand resting on my back, “about what happened I..”.
I quickly interrupt, I quickly understood I wasn’t strong enough to go back to that time, not there, not in that shit hole.
“Don’t worry about it OK, we are on the same page” I reply as I force the most painful smile of my life. “It’s OK”.
“Don’t you think it’s strange we should see each other the day before I leave for Asia?” He questions softly, turning his head to one side. “I think it’s strange”.
I let him leave shortly after. As soon as his back turned I ran out of that club faster than my legs could carry me, ending up back in Clapham in total heartbreak. I was tired from the walk, drenched from the rain and entirely disconnected from myself.
The pain I’d forgotten from 8 years ago was back. Brenda had returned from the grave and passed away right in front of my eyes that night. Things didn’t get better from that point, in previous years I’d force my way through the pain, laugh it off or talk it through, but nothing I could do from that moment onward lessened the weight of what I was carrying. I watched myself become more and more lost, everything I thought was strong was weak, everything I took pride in brought shame. I didn’t know who I was anymore, neither did my boyfriend and neither did my friends.
What had happened became steadily more obvious over the following 3 years…
I had not dealt with a single hurtful thing that happened in my life. I’d put my childhood, my skin condition, my abusive mother, my distant father, the death of Brenda, my feelings of loneliness in my pockets and unknowingly carried them around.
That realisation was too much… way too much.
I hadn’t just carried these emotions I used them as a way to protect myself from getting close to things I wanted most. The more I realised how hurt I’d been from love, the more I protected myself against it.
When this guy appeared I was unwillingly faced with all of those realities, this time I didn’t have the naivety or innocence that white washed my problems back in my early 20’s. This time I was in my late 20’s and maturity left me exposed. I either faced these problems one by one, or I gave up. It sends shivers down my spine to remember the times I almost gave up. No one noticed, barely anyone asked.
But I’ve never given up on anything or anyone, least of all myself.
I’m in week 15 of my travels (although I don’t think the blog is…) and you can’t imagine the differences I feel inside. I look the same (albeit weather beaten), I sound the same, I walk the same, but there’s a fearless freedom whirling inside me I’ve never known. The Chris I’ve been fighting for was there the whole time, it wasn’t a solo effort in finding him, my friends have helped, every new person I’ve met travelling has taught me something invaluable.
My most influential moment happened earlier this week as two powerful personalities spoke to me in total contrast to one another. With an angel by my side and the devil in my hand I was learning a lesson I’d never had the chance before.
The first person was Cyndi, she sat right beside me during this sunny afternoon. The second was that guy, after this blog I will never be mentioning him again. He sat in my hand sending messages from somewhere down the road.
Before I left Hong Kong I knew what I wanted and that was to say bye to him. For me, I wanted to see him one more time, a chance for us to talk about what actually happened. Closure. When we met on day 2 of Hong Kong I’d managed to share what felt important, I shared how special he was for what he did in the days following Brenda’s death but I wanted to meet one more time, I wanted the chance to try and understand what happened and why he did what he did. In my opinion it was his place to try and mend the parts of me he helped break. Before this could happen I needed to be transparent.
I did that…
And I got absolutely nothing in return.
Sat with Cyndi in Starbucks I’m trying not to interrupt her work flow. She’s knee deep in presentations and the last thing she wants is me moaning about my personal life.
At the table I’m on my phone taking my time to choose the right words to help him understand what this situation might mean to me. I’m not pushing, I’m not angry, I’m not emotional, but I am honest.
Sat silently Cyndi can sense something is wrong. The time I was taking to write messages was a clear reflection of how much it meant. My hopes weren’t high for an emotional response.
Curious, Cyndi asks me what’s wrong, pushing her work to the side and taking the time to listen to me. I wasn’t sure about being open, we hadn’t known one another long, I was worried about her response… Biting my tongue I try to explain the situation in the most mature unbiased way I could. I find the best way to do this is to only lay out the facts and keep the emotion out of it. When I talk about this subject I feel intensely stupid, as if the rest of the world would ‘get over it’ and somehow I haven’t.
I was looking for him to say it wasn’t all my fault. That’s all. I wasn’t looking for him to take the blame, just to unburden a person who has sunk slowly under a situation which was out of his control. A part of me thought he could do it, I thought he would be able to take some responsibility, the situation only involved us two, if he didn’t that meant it was all my fault right? That’s the place I’ve occupied for a long time. This is my entire point.
Handing him the power was a mistake.
One after another I’m faced with freezing cold messages that have no emotion and no humanity in them at all. What’s worse is his final message to me said:
“I see no benefit to me in meeting you”
In the midst of these empty responses, surrounded by strangers I was lucky to have Cyndi, a friend who I’d met only twice before. In that moment she made it her responsibly to guard me, because when people hurt, you help. Don’t you?
I suddenly had enough.
The contrast in how they both responded to me spoke volumes. When this guy was sending heartless messages, Cyndi was using her emotion to understand. When he told me he didn’t care for the situation, Cyndi sat and listened to my every word. As he tried to shoo me away, Cyndi shuffled her seat forwards. She had no connection to my pain, he had more understanding than anyone else in my life, yet she took responsibility as my friend to help. He made a choice to relinquish himself of any responsibility at all.
Well I wasn’t taking responsibility for it anymore.
I’ve spent my life firmly believing I’m solely responsible for the bad things that have happened to me. The big, the small, the forgotten and the present. I’ve walked my days believing I deserved it when my mums fist hit my face, that her dismissal of me was only reflection of me personally. I’ve grown up believing my severe eczema was a punishment for a mystery crime I’d committed as a boy. When Brenda passed I felt responsible for not being there to save her life, when that guy walked out he told me I was responsible because of the stress I’d caused him.
But it’s not true. Non of it is. Those bad behaviours are led by cowards, people who aren’t capable of reflecting on themselves.
The way people have treated me is not a reflection of me, it’s a reflection of them. It’s my responsibility to take ownership of my life and my actions, but it’s not my responsibility to take ownership of your bad behaviour. I was doing that, every thing that happened in my life I thought reflected something I’d done wrong. Cyndi became a positive reflection of myself, she stepped forward and helped without me needing to ask. I’m the guy who puts other people first, I remember that, I’m the guy that is honest and loving, he’s still here.
By allowing responsibility to lie with those it belongs my arms have started to uncross my chest for the first time in, well maybe my whole life.
I take no responsibility for your actions.
You live with them, they’re all yours.
Before I landed in Hong Kong I sent a prayer to Brenda and asked her to help me find an end to this situation.
I guess she heard me x