Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 25 Jun 2014, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Other people are not the answer

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Other people always seemed to me to have the answers. They were funnier, they were wiser and they had skills and knowledge that I could only guess at. The most simple manifestation of this was just about every other students’ rooms at university. Theirs looked cosy and intimate with mementos of times with friends. Mine looked like the room of someone who tried too hard.

And this attitude rolled over into adulthood. I had a tendency to latch on to people who had a strong personality as though they had the answers. As I worked as a journalist who made a living from talking to people and getting to know them, from a few minutes to a few days, there were a lot of these.

There was the Army officer, much more posh than I was and seemingly wise to the ways of the world. There was the photographer or, actually, several of them, who I worked with at various points of my career and who seemed to have it all sussed out. If I could be like these people, I told myself, I’d be okay and acceptable in the eyes of the world.

But in the same way that you can’t travel by having someone describe what it was like when they went to America on a business trip, you can’t do life by trying to be someone you’re not. And inside this is another simple truth. The people you envy for not having your faults have plenty of others of their own.

Just about the last stand of this mindset was wanting to be Danish. I thought the Danes had all the answers to life’s questions and visited as often as money allowed, choosing to ignore the problems with Danish society, not least a certain racism and wariness towards foreigners like me, but mainly those with blacker skins.

When I had my breakdown, this attitude survived. But when I found myself working in Denmark after the clouds started to pass, I couldn’t ignore its problems anymore. The society I was in was like the one I’d left. Great in some ways, not so great in others and, like anywhere else on the globe, far from ideal. And that, it chastens me to realise is pretty much what other people are like, too. Great in some ways and only too fallible in others.

Somewhere in The Beatles song, ‘Hey Jude,’ there’s the line ‘the movement you need is on your shoulders,’ which I’ve always taken to mean that it’s your own head that needs to be straight. Nobody else can straighten it for you. So as the recovery from depression goes on, and everyone weighs in with their own piece of advice, I’m starting to realise that it’s me and my reactions that matter, not borrowed experience and second-hand truth.

It’s hard to live up to this. And there’s always something about a person who seems so certain about things that will always make me think they may be right, but my recovery is just that. My recovery. And for better or worse, the only person who has control over that is me.

 

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