I Am A Camera 

I Am A Camera 

Everything has a beginning, middle and an end, something everyone has been conditioned to accept from day one; but what about the parts in between, the transition? The change is something nobody ever really gets used to. I mean, how do we truly know when one thing has ended and it’s time for another to begin? 

For example, we’re born and we live the first few years as an infant, then we move on to childhood, then young adults and so on, but where is the line? Where’s the divide? Who decided that we when we live the first five years of our lives that we’re ready to start learning about the world around us? Who decided that after the first 13 that our bodies would become ready to have sex? Who decides when we’re ready to ‘grow up’? I know, it’s refreshing to hear adolescent angst along the lines of an identity crisis or whatever but that’s not what this is. I know exactly who I am; I’m just not sure whether I like it. 

Christopher Isherwood once said; ‘I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.’ It sums up all I am and all I ever will be, for that is exactly what I am, a camera that does not think but still takes it all in and reacts. There’s a moment, there’s always just a second when the button clicks and the flash goes off when a picture is taken and we get a glimpse of everything that’s going on. In this moment we have a choice; do I keep it and take it for what it is logically and calculated or do I react without even giving it a thought? 

The reaction, wether calculated or not always follows. Someone I once knew said “until you make the change, you’ll never know the outcome” and that resonates with me to this day. Among other things it was one thing that has stuck because we can sit here and say that ” things won’t change and people don’t change so why bother?” But until we make that change, we’ll never know for sure. 

Change is hard, this is a common fact akin to no one likes change but it’s important to realise when something needs to in order to benefit ourselves and the people around us. Regardless of whether you’re in the begging, the middle or the end of a situation at any point it’s sometimes necessary to change direction. Go back to the beginning, fast forward to the end and revisit the middle of you have to. It’s ok to record for a while, take the snapshots and react accordingly. 

The biggest challenge when it comes to change, of course, is ourselves but in all honesty; when there’s more in your head than you find in your life, it’s time for a change. 

The Glamorous Addiction 

The Glamorous Addiction 

Addiction is a word that’s followed by scrutiny and judgement, sympathy and sadness but one thing addiction often isn’t followed by is understanding. More often than not we pass a homeless man on the street and we instinctively think that he has a drug addiction, heroin or crack, something that we deem below the social standard. We often look at those people and forget that addiction comes in many forms, some of which we actually idolise. We’re taught from an early age that being a drug addict is a bad thing yet simultaneously we’re asked by peers to swallow a bottle of vodka before a party. 
Everyone wants to know how much you can drink until you drink too much, everyone wants to ‘drink you under the table’ until you actually end up under the table. There’s a sense of pride that comes with being able to drink more or not suffer the consequences of drinking that isn’t associated with other addictions. That is, until it’s too late. 
Recently I heard a young girl, about seventeen, joke about how she hadn’t been out over the weekend to drink her usual bottle of wine and ‘socialise’ with her friends. This then led to her joking about how she may be going through withdrawals. Anyone that knows me knows that I am one of the hardest people to offend, however in this circumstance I wondered how different it might have been if it was cocaine or heroine. No one would have laughed, they all would have turned and either walked away in disgust or tried to help.   

When people you know try to deter you from drinking they all bring up stories about how someone they used to know, usually a person with so many prospects who was good looking, is now an alcoholic. They usually mention how they bumped into them in a garage or an off-licence buying a bottle of booze and how they’re not so good looking anymore and the stories are usually told with disgust. What about the people that function? What about the people you pass on the street day after day, or even the people that may be training you to do your job that you have no idea about? What if the only reason why they always have a joke to tell or the reason why they are so outgoing is that they too are a slave to their addiction?

There is never an air of sympathy towards the people who they used to call friends. When people talk about alcoholism in schools they always show you the same pictures of the down and outs covered in their own piss and vomit; “don’t be this guy” they’d say. Walking down a street seeing the men and women all red-faced and puffy eyed is meant to make us aware of the lowest points you can reach. But what no body tells you, what they all fail to mention, is the side effects and withdrawals that these people are actually going through. They’ll mention the degenerates parents and how it makes them feel, how they no longer have any friends and that they obviously didn’t care enough. They’ll ask you or themselves what they did to deserve being treated in that way, not what the alcoholics themselves are feeling. 

There’s no compassion towards them because ‘they did this to themselves’. they chose to sit on the stoop outside Tesco with a can of white lightning at 11am on a Wednesday. But that’s not all; according to modern education and social stigmas, they also chose to wake up and have their bodies convulse uncontrollably, providing they sleep at all. If they manage to get to sleep eventually the sweats begin like a broken faucet that’ll continue through three shirts and the thickest of bedsheets. After waking up cold and wet, they’ll try to stand only to find that they have no feeling in their limbs as there whole body continues to shake, feebly hobbling towards whatever day they have planned. That’s just the beginning, then there’s the headaches, the unshakeable sick feeling, stomach cramps and in extreme cases hallucinations that make you question everything around you. That’s what happens when they don’t drink; waking up like this and knowing that it can stop or be made easier by just one drink, one tiny splash of alcohol can make things seem normal again. But they choose to do it right? They chose to live this way.
In modern TV we see day to day the hilarity that comes with alcoholics; Rick and Morty, Bender (Futurama), the likes of Homer Simpson and even characters such as Phoebe Buffay (Friends) and Kitty Forman (that 70’s show) all exhibit excess needs to drink from one time or another yet it’s seen as a joke. Now I can hear you all scream, ‘ALCOHOL IS LEGAL’ and where that may be, the addiction is still real. The addict may still map out five local shops that they can buy from, all of which they can alternate so no one judges on the frequency of purchases. The addict also knows how much every bottle costs, how much they need to borrow or how much they need to give. This addict is also aware that vodka looks like water but vodka also smells like hand sanitiser so in an office or work environment who is going to know?

I’ve done my research and I find myself bombarded with nothing but people that conclude it’s all down to the person. Addiction fits like a glove. There’s the nature versus nurture argument and there always will be. Nature is the bullet and nurture is the gun, anyone can be an addict and as such, no one should judge.

It’s never as personal as people make it, however, the friends and parents of these people, providing they had them, were never intentionally the victims of these peoples actions. It’s more of an occupational hazard that comes with the territory. It’s like smoking a cigarette after dinner and leaving your friends feeling isolated, it’s like being the designated driver and having to be a taxi for the evening or suggesting karaoke when no one can sing. As the addict, you’ll always sing, you’ll always find a way to sing wether that be through running to a friends for a glass of wine or suggesting you go to a local pub event. 

The glamorous addiction, however, allows you to keep up the facade and hide it under talent. Yes, I can drink more than you can, the secret is I need to. Yes, I’m going go out three nights in a row but I don’t feel it because addiction allows me to stay sober. The fact that it’s legal allows one to keep day drinking or to stay drunk as a matter of principle. Meanwhile those who are suffering, who can’t live without a drink, are fining it that much harder. Until it’s too late. 

People Lose Things 

People Lose Things 

People lose things, they just do. It happens throughout the day and throughout our lives without question. Whether that be our phones or wallets or sense of self, on a daily basis, people lose things. 

We’ve all felt our hearts drop when we reach for something in our pockets that isn’t there; it’s like walking up the stairs in the dark and assuming there’s an extra step. As your foot falls so does your stomach and that feeling of loss becomes all too real. It’s like crossing the street and not realising a car is speeding towards you, you stop in the headlights and you can feel your stomach somersault. When you lose it’s the same feeling. 

I’m speaking strictly material of course, but what happens when we lose something more personal? What do we do when we lose something that can’t be replaced or something that doesn’t sit in our pockets? 
People lose things but they also lose people, they lose emotion or respect or even themselves. Waking up and realising you’ve lost yourself gives you the same sense of stomach dropping, heart stopping loss that reaching for the wallet in your pocket does. In the same way reaching for someone that isn’t there any more does. 
When the day arrives that you realise a person is no longer there, you experience the same sense of loss you would have and in some ways you wish it were as easy as losing a phone. There are many factors to losing a person; they can chose to go or they can be taken. You can push them away and cause them to become lost or you yourself can just become lost in everything you were once so sure of, causing other people to lose you. All of a sudden your foot is falling through the dark again, you’re crossing the street, your heart is pounding and you’re left with the realisation that someone just isn’t there. You’ve lost them, you’ve lost it and everything. 
You reach out and they don’t acknowledge you, you fall and they don’t catch you like they used to and they definitely don’t give you the time of day. Losing people is hard but in the same way that your foot falls and reaches ground or the car doesn’t hit you, you’ll feel that sense of relief eventually. 

When you lose yourself, your motive or sense of being it can be harder to consider the reasons why you’re perhaps doing the things you are. Waking up becomes difficult and you wish that you hadn’t because being asleep is easier. When you lose yourself it isn’t as easy as reaching the ground or asking someone to help you find it, no one knows where it’s gone or where you last saw it, it’s just gone. Before you know it it’s difficult to make breakfast or to listen to music or go to work because you’ve just lost that light that everyone talks about when they meet you. 

In the same way that you find your phone after panicking or your feet finally find the ground, so can you. You can find yourself again in little things you do every. You can find yourself in the spontaneous karaoke sessions with your best friend or find yourself in a family meal. You find yourself in everyone that smiles at you whether that be a cashier or a stranger on the street. You can find yourself in the good deeds you do every day or in the family you have around you but you are there. 

By all means lose yourself, but lose yourself in a song or a conversation that you’re passionate about. Lose yourself in a musical or a film that you connect with and don’t be afraid to feel it all. Lose yourself but be ready to pick yourself straight back up and continue on. 

Doing The Right Thing 

Doing The Right Thing 

There comes a time in our lives when we’re all faced with choices. The proverbial fork in the road, two roads diverged in a yellow wood and all that. The question comes when we have to decide, do we take the road less travelled or do we simply do the right thing? Wether that be the right thing for ourselves or for the immediate world around us. I used to be with someone who would always, no matter what I was feeling, respond “just do the right thing”. I never truly understood what he meant by that, until now. I would often wonder, why can’t ‘what’s right’ be handed to me? Why should I have to figure that out for myself? But sometimes “the right thing” isn’t a simple answer, sometimes it’s already there and you just need to be brave enough to realise it. 
For example, many take New Year’s Eve with a great seriousness, and so it should be. The minute the clock strikes twelve you have an entirely new 365 days to ignore your resolutions and another 365 opportunities to do the right thing. I, like many,spent my New Years with friends in a public space where the new year could be ushered in with loud music and copious amounts of alcohol, this is not the issue. 
This particular night I was invited to a New Years event by my friend, Lilly, who had arranged a night in some night club downtown with her boyfriend and another couple and I was the fifth wheel. This didn’t bother me as anyone who knows me knows that I don’t find it difficult to speak to people nor do I find it hard to make friends. So the night draws in around seven in the evening and as I made my way to Lilly’s’ flat, vodka in hand, I prepared myself for what I thought would be a straight forward evening of laughs and drinks. I stepped off of the bus and made my way up the stairs of the dimly lit tower block in southwest London, being conscious of the neighbours, she greeted me with a hug and a kiss as friends would and we went inside to begin preparing ourselves for the night ahead. She poured me a drink and as the red cup began to fill up there was a knock at the door and she immediately went to answer it. 
Let me preface this by saying Lilly is the sort of person who’s company alone would make you smile, to this day I’m not sure how she does it. There’s a light behind her eyes, a never ending positivity that’s like that of a child’s however her sense of humour matched that of someone who’s lived many lives. She always seemed sure of herself, sure of the people around her and even if it might have been an act, it was pulled off perfectly. So you can imagine my surprise when I met him. 
When she came back, as expected I stood up and introduced myself to her boyfriend, shaking his hand, making small talk and instantly sitting back down. His name was Joe and I somehow found it difficult to talk to him. He was fairly tall, had a masculine build but looked like a miniaturised wolverine. I mentioned this as a joke and we all laughed. When the night had drawn on and we finally left the club, I couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling that something was wrong; wether it was the way he spoke or the way we couldn’t speak I was unsure. 
As I would make self depreciating joke after joke (roping Lilly and our other friends into it) I would catch his eyes, staring at me. Like I had offended him personally but oddly enough it had nothing to do with him. The clock struck 9.00pm and we made the decision to travel on to the bar in Soho, after popping a bottle of presecco needless to say we were all fairly excited. As we stepped onto the street to catch a train I lit a cigarette and continued to walk; again I caught his gaze. As Lilly and I stood on the street whilst the others went inside to get tickets she turned to me “Joe hates smoking” we laughed it off. Each to their own, I thought as I took a drag and stubbed it out. 
As the night drew on, everything was fairly normal, we danced and laughed and drank a reasonable amount. It was a night that was just for us, we were starting the year on a high. There was one moment that changed things for me. Joe and I were on the dance floor and Lilly had gone to the bathroom with our other friend. Her boyfriend shuffled towards me and I asked if he’d like another drink, he took me up on my offer and ordered his girlfriend one as well. However, when I turned to Joe to ask if he or Lilly wanted another, he snapped “no thank you, she’s had enough” and I stared silent for a moment. 
 I shook this off and just assumed he was just ‘that guy’. Moments later he started asking where Lilly was, complaining that she’d been in the bathroom for too long. Like a dog with a bone he wouldn’t let it go he just kept persisting that he was worried about her. The truth is, she’d been less than 10 minutes and I couldn’t bare the thought of someone like Lilly being under the thumb of this one person, especially on New Year’s Eve. 

At that point I started thinking about ‘the right thing’, normally I’d sit by and not say anything, perhaps allow him to continue to speak the way he did. I turned to him, softly explaining that (and I quote) “she’s a grown woman, she’s gone to the bathroom she’ll be back soon, chill out” I smiled. I remember turning away and dancing to myself. 
When she came back we continued as nothing had happened, he hadn’t let her out of his sight all night and every time he spoke to her I saw that light behind her eyes dull down. She would stop dancing or singing and even stop smiling with just one word from him. It was heartbreaking to see someone that I revered as being a positive influence to me personally be held down so easily. At that point I found a way to get us alone, this wasn’t easy as you can imagine, but it was necessary. We stood outside in the smoking area and before I could make my point he made it for me by texting her four times in less than five minutes. 
At that point the right thing presented itself to me, I knew that I had to say something, explain what I saw regardless of the outcome to our own relationship. I have no doubt that she loved Joe and I was prepared for her to tell me to piss off and that I don’t know anything but after I said it, she saw it. The right thing was right for both of us, for me to say and for her to hear. 
My point is, doing the right thing may not always be obvious at first. The right thing for Lilly since then was to break it off with Joe and move back home. She’s since started seeing someone who, from what I hear, values her happiness more than his own and I couldn’t have wanted it to end better. You’re always going to be faced with choices, if I hadn’t said anything that night she might still be in an emotionally abusive relationship but I made the choice to do what I felt was the right thing. It’s very easy to sit and say ‘nothing will change so it doesn’t matter what I do’ but until you make the change you’ll never know the outcome. 
Help the pensioner across the street, hold the bus for someone that’s running late and let someone with only one item jump ahead you at the grocery store. Check in on your mother once you’ve moved out, tell your friends your honest opinions because even if it hurts them you should have their best interests at heart and it shouldn’t matter. Give yourself time, don’t rush into things because ‘the right thing’ won’t come to you over night. Making the right choice is hard and it’s everyday but it’s worth it to just be more honest with yourself and everyone around you. 
What have you got to lose? 

Turn off the lights 

Turn off the lights 

Leaving a relationship, for any reason, is never easy: this is a common fact. But in the end you realise some other common facts; that it was for a reason, that you’ll get over it eventually and that somewhere down the line a relative or friend has informed you you’re better off without them.  

There is one thing that’s almost never thought of however; starting a new one. 

As Valentine’s Day once again approaches, I am left to wonder why being alone is more and more acceptable today than it ever has been. 

When starting a new relationship there are many questions one has to consider; what am I looking for? Who am I looking for? Do I want a one night stand or a pre-nup and a house in the suburbs? Whatever it is, the real question is am I ready? 

When are you ever ready to really open up again to one person, in anyway? Sometimes it’s almost as if you’ve been stood in a room full of cockroaches and you’ve just turned the lights on. All the bugs scatter and you’re stood in an empty kitchen all alone with a day old pizza. However, the minute you turn the lights off and stop looking all the cockroaches come crawling back out ready to fuck off the minute you decide to start looking again. How long do we intend to keep the lights off? When’s the appropriate amount time to wait before turning them back on? Or are we better off not looking and letting whatever is hiding in the dark just come and get us? 

I believe that on some level we are all cockroaches; crawling in and out of each others lives perpetually wandering around in the dark bumping into each other by accident. It not only explains why we consistently crawl up to people who aren’t interested but also why the minute somebody turns their lights on and shows any interest most of us run and hide.  

In the same sense maybe we’re all better off keeping the lights off. Maybe we should stop actively looking and let whomever and whatever stumble into our lives, stop trying and just enjoy every relationship we should perhaps make on the way. 

To answer my original question: The truth is it doesn’t matter how long you wait or how you find it, you’ll never be ready. You’ll never be ready for the long nights or the first kisses and butterflies in your stomach. All we can do is hope that when we find it, it’ll last and it will be right. 

Otherwise you can all switch off the lights, right?  

Home 

Home 

 The oxford dictionary defines home as “The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household” but I don’t find that to be entirely true. It’s an undeniable truth that you will always start life out at home and eventually you’ll move away and make your own. For many years now I have managed to find home as more than just a place of brick and mortar. I’ve found it as more than just a permanent residence with wires and water and I find myself back in this place. There comes a moment however, when you find yourself back at home, back where you started and begin to wonder, do I belong here?

For years I had two: the one I was raised and born into and the one I made for myself. Like most teenagers the one I had made for myself was an amalgamation of everything I thought I knew I wanted. It was a two bedroom maisonette in the borough of lewisham above a post office. I moved there with a partner and it was far from perfect. It had a communal garden that was overgrown and unused, the oven didn’t work correctly and the bedroom had a damp mould problem. Between the broken toilet sit and the multiple damaged (or missing) electrical fittings, to me it was perfect. My mother sent me our first piece of post in the form of a letter saying how proud she was of me building my own life with someone and that was first time I really knew i was home. 
But there is a lesser thought of scenario, what happens if we find ourselves back where we started? After all this time is it still possible to feel comfortable in a place you didn’t build for yourself? 

For me, home is the conversation you have with the local shop owner, it’s in the familiar street names and knowing the best place to cross the street. It’s the regular hello to a neighbour and the morning coffee with your significant other; it’s a place that you often make for yourself, starting from scratch and taking from all the different aspects of your life. For many it’s not just one place. It’s in the draw full of random Gadgets and spare parts, and inside the one appliance that doesn’t work properly. It’s on the back of a take out menu, it’s in a bar where everyone knows your name. It’s more than just a warm bed, even though sometimes that’s all you need. It’s that safe feeling with those who love you and it’s feeling comfortable enough to, argue over the remote.
It’s not always permanent nor is it always perfect and through out life we will have to inevitably up root it and maybe find another. You may loose it, but it’s something that you can always find again. Home Is truly where the heart is however that’s not to say you can’t build your own shelf and place it somewhere unexpected. Wherever you do build it or who you decide to make it with, for the time being you’ll always belong there and you will always have a place to call home, even if it’s just for a little while. 

A look back before going forward. 

A look back before going forward. 

Many years ago I stumbled across the realisation that I had a passion for writing. From the short stories I used to right as a child to the more serious ramblings in my diaries; I’ve always done it. 

Family is important, this is a fact that everyone knows. It’s a short word that means something different to everyone who hears it. For some it is simply those who are biologically related to them, for others it’s every person that has stumbled into their life by mistake but stayed on purpose. It’s undeniable that you make your own in the end and they are the people that will always be around when you need them but how often do we see these people and thank them? How often to we truly count our blessings and focus on them? And is it ever enough? 

I have been lucky enough to have been awarded a loving and supportive family as I’m sure many of you have. They have always given me the space and encouragement to do what I love, so this is for them. There are times when you realise just how important your family is and from a narrow observation I made six years ago they have constantly pushed me to be myself. To this some still ask me what’s next and to that I answer; this. 

The family gathering can always stir up a huge mix of emotions and slurred words that trickle from the drunken men and women alike. The sound of UB40 and Bitty McLean blasts through the floorboards whilst neighbours and infants sleep. Even the people that aren’t actually related to us still feel apart of something bigger. The family gathering is, more often than not, a last minute impulse, that some look forward to and others dread. Wether it’s a carefully crafted affair or a crate of fosters and a bottle of Smirnoff infront of a boxing match it can take many forms and the hosts will usually only invite those who they regularly converse and socialize with. That’s not to say those who don’t get invited are any less part of the family or less loved by us all. 

The children will stay up later than normal and the adults will drink a whole lot more than usual. The kitchen will be stacked high with enough alcohol to probably start your own off licence. The smell of cigarette smoke and the sound of thoughtful conversations drift through the air and the younger ones will happily sit and watch the commotion go on. Some people will arrive drunk and for others it’s a slow trip from the vodka bottle to stumbling in to the back of a taxi. People feel compelled to do things that they usually wouldn’t do, they feel the need to spend the day before making sure the house is spotless. The ones who have no one to talk to will happily dance by them selves until someone will join them, the ones who over do it slightly and end up throwing up on the laminate flooring, the ones who turn the music up full volume with no care for anyone else but the family who wish to have a good time, the ones who even drunk will continue to try to keep a tidy living space, the ones who will leave because their kids have fallen asleep on the sofa, the ones who won’t leave just because their kids have fallen asleep on the sofa, the ones that will leave after a few hours and the ones that are too young to understand half of what’s going on but will continue to smile and hopelessly beg to go home, will all come together as one family. 

Even though it has it’s ups and downs and some people will leave upset and others bursting with excitement, tomorrow is another day and family will always be there to forgive and forget. It’s hard at times but it’s nothing more than genuine unconditional love, and for that I am truly thankful. So here’s to the Spence clan, here’s to every one of you, old and new. Wether it’s just genetics that bought us together I can say that I’m glad you exist. 

I ask you to take a moment and consider your own families, take a look at every single person you consider family and thank them for being in your life.