Selflessness Revisited

So I had a really interesting day recently. I went to Creative Collisions. 9 of the biggest youth charities in the UK hosted a big ol’ conference. Lots of workshops and talks and panel discussions etc. which were great. No matter how useful (or not useful) the conference is for co-working and cross charity partnerships is one thing I gained from that day was a renewed sense that the world hasn’t completely gone to shit.

The people who attended the conference were fantastic. The young people in attendance were intelligent, active citizens who are working hard to deal with the hand that life (and previous generations) has dealt us. The youth workers, teachers, support workers who attended genuinely care about the future generations.

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In a time where racism is rampant, Islamophobia is intertwined in society, women still get treated like shit, politicians are liars, crooks, sex offenders and the internet is it’s usual double edged sword, it’s really important to remind yourself that there are still people out there fighting the good fight. Educating people. Spreading love, kindness and doing things for others who may not be able to do it themselves. Selflessness still exists. Sometimes you have to really search for signs of selflessness but it’s out there.

If you can’t find even the slightest trace of selflessness in the world, what are you waiting for? Get out there. Be the selfless one. We can all talk about how the world is going to shit and how horrible people are and how kindness doesn’t exist any more. But unless we get up off our arses and do something about it, we’re part of the problem.

Be kind, love, get shit done.

If you’re struggling to think of ways to do something selfless or to take action in any way, check out these videos by my beautiful friends Carl and Uzma who are putting together 60 second social actions. They’re amazing, hilarious and ridiculously kind. Make sure to subscribe to their channel and spread a little love.

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Progress, Updates and Next Steps.

So it’s been a while again. This job hunting thing is taking up a fair bit of time.

But anyway, this is another short update on the blog, the YouTube channel and social.

The blog is still going to be getting updated and soon it’s going to be more regularly and more consistently! Same with the YouTube channel. I’m in the middle of editing episode 2 of the Invisible Illness Human Library. You should have a look at episode 1 if you haven’t done so already. Things are changing quite a bit though. Every month we’re going to be posting about a specific topic. Those topics aren’t ready to be revealed yet but there’s some really cool stuff coming!

Regarding YouTube, a wonderful wonderful update is that I’m not alone any more! A friend of mine Lily, pictured below, is going to be creating a video for us. If you guys watch and love her stuff she might even agree to make more for us! Lily is a cracking film maker and she’s an alright person too, I guess.

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Welcome to the crew, Lily! 

Regarding social media, Twitter and Facebook will be going up in June-ish. You’ll be able to follow us and like us soon so keep your eyes peeled for an announcement! This is all really exciting and I can’t wait to share the new and improved Success In Selflessness with you all!

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The Many Moods Of Alex: Decisions Decisions Decisions!

So I was off work for two weeks and had an amazing time. I forgot about everything work related and got to work on my own projects, got to go visit people I love and forget about impending unemployment and the stresses of money, bills and more.

Monday, I went back to work and was in a surprisingly good mood! I was excited to see the team at work and many laughs were had. I also went out for drinks with a few people (I know, Monday drinks? You mad, Alex. You mad.) which was really good fun.

Tuesday I went to a day of training about how to be a coach with an amazing charity called Yes Futures in preparation to work with a local school and a group of students. I had an amazing day (despite being a little worse for wear post pub. I also stayed up a little later to work on a video which didn’t help…) and was genuinely excited to meet a new group of people who are so excited to help some students get to where they want to be in life.

So all in all, it’s been pretty fucking great recently.

However, today was a very different story. I’ve been so busy and over excited over the last few weeks that I’ve begun to dip a little. Sleep has become erratic and I wake up multiple times a night. So I woke up today barely able to move and my mood was absolute garbage. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been significantly worse, but I was no where near at my best today.

It hit me that one thing that has been playing on my mind is that come June, I’m going to be out of a job. I’m being made redundant and I’m 100% okay with that. I turned down an opportunity to stay here so that I could go and try something new after spending 3+ years here so I’m really excited to find something new.

The things that are playing on my mind are:

  1. I haven’t been offered a job yet.
  2. I haven’t found any job that I’m particularly interested in.
  3. I don’t really know what I want to do with my life.
  4. Did I make the right decision to turn down that job at my current place?

Number 4 is particularly on my mind today. Did I do the right thing to turn down a job with decent pay where I knew what I was doing? If I was following my head, I would say “Nope. I fucked up.”. The team is amazing, the job is easy and the money is good. But my heart isn’t in it anymore. My head is logical. It knows I have bills to pay, trips to make and people that depend on me.

And my heart tells me “Oooh I’m not sure. All those young people could still do with your help but if you’re not sure, maybe it was the right choice? Or not. Who knows.” This indecisiveness is a pretty normal thing for me and always tries to reason things and list the pros and cons. My heart wants to do what’s best for the “greater good” even if it means I suffer because of it.

My gut is the part of me that I listen to most. When I heard that I was at risk of redundancy, my gut told me it was a perfect time to go. The programme I work on is changing and that means it’s a great time for someone new to come in and put their fresh spin on it. It also means that I have an opportunity to push myself and learn a whole load of new things (like coaching). “Go for it, Alex. Take a chance on yourself. Believe in yourself enough to take a risk. It’s going to be great.”

Now, this time, I really believe that I’ve made the right choice. Whoever takes over from me will be amazing and I’m sure it’ll be a huge success. It’s a great chance for me to strike out, develop my own things (blogs, videos, music etc.). I have the chance now to apply for some amazing new jobs and/or do some freelance work (wedding singing is now on the cards). 10168008_256556724526509_1121366075_n

I will always doubt my decisions. Especially when it doesn’t make financial sense. Gotta make that money to survive right? But I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not in the business of making a shit load of money. I’m in the joy business. I try my hardest to bring piles of smiles and tins of grins to everyone. One person I don’t do that for though, is myself. So just this once, I’m going to take a chance on my decision, believe it’ll work out and try to enjoy this new adventure.

Your head, heart and gut will always be at odds with each other. Try to believe in your gut more. My gut doesn’t do logic or emotions. My gut just focuses on the feeling at the time. My gut told me to go for it. I’m going to try my best to believe in that. I hope you do too!

A

 

Introverts, Extroverts And The Weird Ones In Between

So I’m up in Newcastle at the moment, staying with some friends over the next few days to catch up, relax and enjoy the city that I love so much. The people here that I’m visiting are amazing. I love them like they’re my own brothers and sisters. They ground me, lift my confidence and my spirits but are also not afraid to take me down a peg or two if I’m being a knob. They’re perfect friends. I met almost all of them through my old volunteering days and those are the days that made me do a whole lot of thinking.

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Seriously, look how majestic this place is. 

As I’m sure you’ve read in the title, I want to talk about the types of personality there are. Particularly introverts and extroverts. Now, a lot of people just think that extroverts are highly social party animals and introverts are recluses who don’t mix well with other human beings. Occasionally that can be true but I personally feel like it’s a little more complex than that.

I cannot for the life of me remember where I read it (it was most likely on a random post on Facebook) but the post said that extroverts get their energy from other people while introverts get their energy from themselves. I like this way of thinking about it. Extroverts are in their element when they’re around other extroverts and sometimes may struggle to spend extended periods of time in their own company. Introverts relish their time alone and that gives them a sense of comfort and contentment, but again, they may struggle when dropped in a large group setting.

Almost all the people who know me would consider me an extrovert. When I’m around people, I’m generally very chatty, I can be loud, brash and a little rowdy (especially after a few pints). I’ve always considered myself an introvert. It may be due to my mental ill-health, it may not be. I love my time alone. I make sure that I give myself time to just be with my thoughts or to do simple little things just for myself. Sometimes, if I’m already at home, I flat out won’t make plans so I can stay at home. When someone else cancels plans with me, I’m almost always pretty pleased about it as I can throw on my pajamas and watch a film. Obviously I’d have loved to have seen the person or else I wouldn’t have made the plans but cancelled plans just means I have more me time. I’m not even a fan of texting or calling people anymore. Like, I won’t flat out ignore anyone, but I’ll avoid checking my messages for a few days at a time.

Recently though, I’ve begun to think about myself as an ambivert. A nice balance between the two. At work I’m usually upbeat and lively, especially if I’m delivering a session/working with a large group. And even though my anxiety usually skyrockets and eventually leaves me physically and emotionally drained, for a short period, I get my energy from being around those people and working with them. But then as soon as I get home, I just want to eat, play some games and sleep with no more contact from the outside world.

I’m not sure if I’m making any sense right now as it’s 11pm and I’m half asleep, but to me, being an ambivert (or at the very least, moving from introverted to ambiverted) strikes a perfect balance. It’s what I’m working towards. I am not naturally extroverted, despite what others may say about me so I’m trying to learn to be that way. It’ll allow me to meet more amazing people, experience new things. I’m also trying to stay true to my introverted roots by allowing myself to shut away from the rest of humanity.

When I was volunteering, I was super introverted at first. I never approached anyone until I got to know them. There were 100 of us at a training weekend and that terrified me. I waited for people to approach me and was even more scared that no one would approach me. Luckily I attracted amazing people, the people I’m visiting right now. They managed to start pulling the extrovert out of me and I’m grateful for it. Without them I’d not be transforming into an ambivert and to be honest I’d probably be a proper hermit by now.

There’s nothing wrong with being either an introvert or an extrovert, but for me, I am really looking forward to being someone in the middle. It’s a fine line for me, but I’m prepared to walk that line if it means it’ll help me become a better, more rounded and braver person.

Also I need people to go see films with and eat nice food with. Mainly that.

A

The Internet And Online PC Gaming: A Double-Edged Sword

I love the internet in so many ways. The internet allows me to connect with people across the world through my blog, Facebook, Twitter etc. It allows me to join communities that I wouldn’t ever be able to access without it.

I’ve recently taken a dive back into online gaming. I’ve played games online since I was about 15 and always been very aware that there are some arse wipes in the online community. So when I hit 17 or so, I stopped playing competitive games online. I played single player games and co-operative games where there was a lot less random abuse being thrown around.

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There are also a lot of Harambe jokes about Winston! Pahahaha

At 25 I finally dove back into the competitive online gaming scene through Overwatch. It’s a brilliantly addictive game and I’m beginning to think that I’ve become obsessed with it. It features a diverse cast of characters from around the world and most of the voice actors are native speakers of the languages that the characters speak. When I’m not playing the game, I watch streams online of other people playing, I watch videos on YouTube of people playing the game and then try to emulate what they’re doing whenever I play (I’m notoriously bad at video games so I need all the help I can get).

One thing I was completely not prepared for was how horrible and disgusting people can be and how seriously people take something that’s supposed to be for fun. I’m not talking about the pros, of course. If that’s their job, by all means take it seriously.

If you’re just playing for fun, you get a whole heap of abuse and anger thrown your way. Even when you’re not playing in the games hyper serious “Competitive” mode. Some of the insults are pretty nasty. Some are a little less intense, the “you suck” and “you’re really bad at this game” are not constructive but also not particularly offensive. The others though, fuck me…

I was playing a game recently on a map called Lijiang Tower which is based in China and within seconds, people start making racist comments about the Chinese, the culture, their “slitty eyes”, the classic “HERRO” and lots more. Of course, I called them out and mentioned that I’m Chinese and they’re being pretty shitty. Their response was “do you eat dogs though?”. My response was obviously a “no” to which they responded “well then you’re not a real chink are you?”. In 2017…

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It’s not all bad, there’s the occasional fake proposal too. 

This is the tip of the iceberg too. God forbid you’re a woman and you play the game. The number of rape comments, “why aren’t you making me a sandwich” comments, and “fake female gamer” comments is unreal but ultimately extremely common. First of all, and most simply, how can someone be a fake gamer? If they’re playing the game they’re a fucking gamer. Why do so many men think that playing video games is/should be a solely male past time. Secondly every time I stand up for someone mid game, you can be sure that I get abuse too but mine is nothing compared to the women I speak up for. Even when they’re insulting me, it’s still directed very much at the women. Thirdly, you know the insults will fly thick and fast if the women are just better at the game. Holy crap, some of the men who play this game have such fragile egos that losing to a woman at a video game results in them hurling abuse at them. Finally, NOTHING, anyone does warrants threats of rape or murder. Stop it you disgusting pieces of human shaped shit.

Sadly, this isn’t something exclusive to the realms of online gaming. It’s the whole internet. Reddit is a pretty horrendous place sometimes. Again, I use it to read creepy stories, discuss PC parts, learn how to play the Pokémon card game and learn about science, technology and the world. But some of the most offensive, horrific memes are posted there too.

The internet is a powerful tool for good if used in the right way. It’s also a place where cowards, racists, sexists and straight up stains on society can hide behind a veil of anonymity and speak their horrific, twisted views. The internet makes people brave which isn’t always a good thing.

But the main thing is, I’m sorry to all POC and women who have to put up with this kind of shit. I’ll always do my best to speak up and help. I hope that other people who read this will do the same. And to all you racist, sexist, xenophobic pieces of shit who abuse people in video games and online, just shut your mouth. You’re ruining a great thing for everyone and you’re making yourself look like an absolute fool.

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Note: All this aside, I also often come across really lovely people. I started chatting to someone on the opposite team who was playing the same character as me and me and the opposite team just hit it off and were having a little fun while playing the game by skating around on walls etc with Lucio. One person on my team got very very angry though and started hurling abuse at me at which point, the other team pointed out I was the only one doing anything of use on my team and to calm down as it’s only a game. I still game with them today.

A Short Update!

First things first, a really important update. Work on the Invisible Illness Human Library has officially got underway! I’ve started meeting with people who are interested in getting involved and have contacted my first potential venue. It’s not a massive start but it’s a start. It’s super exciting to be dipping my toes back into running events!

I’m currently also trying to recruit a little team to work with me on this project. First and foremost, the people with the stories!

For anyone who wants to be one of our “books” the main things we’re exploring about your stories are:
– Diagnosis
– Symptoms
– Highs and lows
– Organisations that have supported you
– Tips for people to support others with an invisible illness.

We’re looking for each person’s story to last between 5 and 10 minutes.

We’ll be doing a physical event (the human library bit) but I would also love to record your stories and upload them so that we can show that it’s okay to talk about invisible illnesses.

 

Next up, a little life update. It’s been a really tough couple of weeks recently. I’ve found myself feeling physically and mentally exhausted. Luckily, I’ve had lots of people very kindly making sure that I don’t lock myself away and wallow in my own mad mind! I also received the nicest, most thoughtful gift of all time. I was taken to see Eliza and the Bear which was absolutely amazing and then I was given an incredible, heartfelt card and this beautiful wooden Success in Selflessness guitar pick. It’s really hard to stress how important it is to have amazing friends around you. Try your best not to shut yourself away, even if you’re feeling extremely anxious or your depression is hitting hard. Even send a text to say hi to someone. It will help. I promise. 20161128_231753.jpg

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3 Things I Appreciated This Past Week

Every day is not good, but there is something good in every day.

In turbulent times like these it’s really important that we learn to appreciate the people and the things in our lives that we’ve really appreciated. It’s often the little things that we overlook easily. I find it really useful to seek out these little things to make ourselves remain positive and to prevent us from becoming cynical and angry at the world.

While it may feel like hate has taken over the world, love still exists and it’s still a powerful thing. The quote above is a powerful one for me and I try to find that something good in every day. Here are some of the good things that I have experienced this week.

1. Reconnecting with an old friend and with music

Years ago, I met a girl at school and we chatted rarely and sang together once in the music room at school. We pretty much never hung out and never really spoke much but we recently reconnected after 8 long years and being thousands of miles apart. I knew very little about her when we were in school but the person she’s become is wonderful. Kind, fun, accepting, really flippin smart and also very talented. We got together and chatted, listened to music like the old days (like where you’d buy a few new CD’s and bring them round and listen to them together) and also sang together. This is the product of our re-connection! Mara, thank you for being you!

2. The kindness of strangers

So as you know, I’ve recently started making videos for this blog as well. If you don’t, check out the channel, watch some videos, subscribe (shameless plug, I know, video below). What I really appreciated though, was someone who was established as a YouTuber and someone who’s videos I watch every week, took the time out to watch some of my videos and give me feedback. She’s undoubtedly really busy and she still helped me out! She was in the last blog post and she remains one of the loveliest people online. So, thanks, Ana Marta!

3. My job

Tonight is my first night home for 3 days. I spent two days in St Helens and one day in Leicester. Leicester is the day I want to talk about though. I got to see where one of my young people had got to after knowing her for three years. She’d organised an event for 500 students to encourage them to get into STEM. She was confident, calm and assertive throughout the day. It was so wonderful to see what she’s achieved and how successful her project has become. I’m proud to do what I do and I’m so proud of her for supporting other young people who have been told they’re not good enough to get into STEM. They can and will and they’re going to pioneer innovative new ways to make the world a better place. 🙂

A Little Bit Of Inspiration

Every once in a while I need a little bit of inspiration. There’s a lot out there. There are loads of different places, people and things that provide me with inspiration. Here are a few that I’ve noticed recently which I want to highlight.

1. Prince Ea – I JUST SUED THE SCHOOL SYSTEM!!!

First on my list is Prince Ea suing the school system.

If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you’ll know that I have my issues with schools. Teachers are under paid and over worked and they are so restricted by grades and statistics that they are completely unable to teach students creatively. Prince has summed up almost all of my frustrations in one video and he does it so eloquently. If you’re not subscribed to his YouTube channel, I’d highly recommend doing it! He’s an incredible spoken word artist.

2. The Native People protecting land from the Dakota Access Pipeline

The Sioux are trying their hardest to protect their land in a peaceful way.Their land was stolen when the British went over, their people were slaughtered and the treaties put in place after that have been violated.

Despite the peaceful protests, the police have been extremely aggressive and have been treating the Sioux people like criminals. The national guard have been sent out in full force with rubber bullets and essentially, tanks. The government are doing very little to protect the Sioux people and the environment. But the Sioux people, especially the young people, are inspiring me. I’m watching them stand up for their rights and unite so many people behind a cause. I’d also like to highlight this post HERE. Please read that post once you’re done here!

3. Ana Marta and Marie Jacqueminfrom New Age Creators – Brain Stuff/ Let’s Talk About My Mental Health

Okay, this one is a little different. The tone is light and really fun but it does talk about a real issue. Anxiety and depression! I’m sure you all saw this coming but I thought I couldn’t not include one mental health related video right?

Ana Marta’s voice is super soothing and the way she speaks about and records this video is super creative.

Marie’s one is raw and real and I know how difficult it is to be raw and real. I can barely talk about it to myself outloud let alone outdoors with people around who may hear me. I also love that Marie talks about how important it is to get help and also how open she is about her taking tablets. It’s not a bad thing to be on medication!

If you’re not already following New Age Creators, again, please make sure  you do! They’re an amazing collective from all over the place!

These are some of the little things that have inspired me to keep campaigning and keep writing and encouraging people to take on the issues that matter most to them. I’m sincerely hoping these give you a little inspiration as well and can help get you doing something that you really care about.

Seen any other really cool, inspiring stuff recently? Tell me about it in the comments below!

A

Hostile Takeover to Hospitable Communities: Thank You!

So, as I’m sure you’re aware, this year we had a referendum on whether or not the UK should stay a member of the EU. Sadly, we as a nation, decided to leave the EU. In the wake of that, racist, religious and homophobic attacks (physical and verbal) has increased drastically.

One group who have taken a lot of the brunt of this has been the Muslim community. They’ve been taking shit from people for years and years and have always responded with respect, dignity and love, even to those who are cruel and abusive to them. I have always loved and admired the Muslim community for how unconditionally caring they are and tried to help raise awareness about and demystify Islam with the help of some friends. You can read about that here.

Time and time again, they’ve shown me compassion, love and friendship when I need it most and when I’m, quite frankly, a terrible friend. And it’s not just me either. (Side note: I shouldn’t have to say this, but that doesn’t mean my other friends from other faiths aren’t equally as nice.)

Recently, some friends of mine took over my Facebook and posted that I’d converted to Islam. And while that wasn’t true, it did, once again show just how wonderful the Muslim community is.

While lots of my friends thought this was true, I had loads of calls from my Muslim friends. Every single one of them was so happy to hear that I had converted to Islam. I had to disappoint them all one by one but the love and acceptance they showed me while they thought it was true was incredible. They offered me help, invited me to their mosques, invited me for food and offered to teach me about Islam. They welcomed me into their community with no questions, no judgments and with positivity and love.

Even when I did my Fast for a Friend thing, one of my friends bought me dinner for iftar all the way from Bury. I was invited by so many of my friends’ friends to iftar at their houses. They were willing to welcome a complete stranger who wasn’t even Muslim, to eat with them and pray with them and learn with them during Ramadan. I even got a few tweets from SuperSaf showing support (one of my favourite tech YouTubers).

I am constantly blown away by the Muslim community and their welcoming nature. I really hope that you can experience Islam the way I have, from an outside perspective but with the same love that I’ve seen.

Do NOT let mainstream media and pieces of shit horrible people like Trump convince you that Islam is evil. The greatest threat to the world isn’t Islam. It’s horrible, closed minded, racist, religiously discriminatory people. They’re the greatest threat to the world.

I’m so grateful to my Muslim friends. You all teach me how to be a better person and I do not know what I’d do without you all. I’m going to try to spread as much joy and goodness as all of you. Thank you!

A

Karma: A Beginners Guide

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Karma is a wonderful thing. I don’t believe it’s the universe rewarding good deeds with more good stuff. But I very much believe that you get what you give and it’s other people that give it back.

No one is perfect. Anyone that claims they are is wrong. No matter how wonderful I think my friends are, they’re not perfect. I’m far from it myself. Even Mary Poppins wasn’t perfect. Practically perfect but not perfect. It’s difficult to be perfect. Even the pursuit of perfection is hard and ultimately fruitless. But it’s easy to not be an arse. And when you’re not an arse, people will be nicer to you and opportunities will be easier to come by.

So here are my five top tips for Karma.

1. Be Genuine

When people can see that you’re genuinely trying to help they will appreciate it more. It’s so so obvious when you’re doing good things just to be praised. It’s cringeworthy to see people doing stuff and patting themselves on the back. If you’re going to help someone, make sure you want to do it. Half arsed help could potentially do more damage than good.

2. Be Humble

Following on nicely from being genuine, be humble. There’s literally nothing worse than people patting themselves on the back and thinking they’re hot shit because they shared a link on Facebook about some poorly sourced information that sounds like it should be true and progressive. Bill and Melinda Gates (along with tons of other people) helped to virtually eradicate polio. How often do you hear them going to talks and saying “Yeah, I basically eradicated polio, no biggie.”? You don’t. Humble is good. Humble brags aren’t.

3. Don’t Promise More Than You Can Do

Doing good is wonderful. Promising to do good is also good as long as you can do it. If you’re a graphic designer with no other talents, do not offer to build a wall in someones garden. If you can’t do something, don’t do it. I’m not saying just walk away and leave it at that. You can still support that person to find the help they need.

4. Take The Opportunity To Be Kind

If you see someone in need of support, offer that support. Simple really. If they accept your help, you’ll be able to do some good for someone. If they say no, wish them well and leave them to it. The gesture will have been appreciated. Sometimes you don’t even see that someone needs help. There is always an opportunity to be kind. Always.

5. Enjoy Being Kind

You should enjoy being kind to others. It’s a wonderful feeling for you and it’s a fantastic feeling for others. As mentioned in my post absolutely years ago, you can’t be selfless all the time. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes and it’s okay to enjoy what you do, even if it’s meant to be a selfless act. Also, the more you enjoy what you do, the more you’ll do it and in turn, the more people will want to be kind to you.

If you follow these top 5 tips to Karma, if you’re kind, genuine and humble, Karma and the people around you will be kind to you.

What are your top tips to make the most of the swings and roundabouts? 🙂

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