Helping yourself by helping others

For as long as I can remember I always wanted to visit Japan. The culture, the food, the people, they all seem so unique and mysterious to me, yet somehow familiar. Maybe this is because growing up I read a lot of Manga, watched a lot of anime and had an unhealthy love of sushi and ramen. One big thing that had always prevented me from visiting though, was the feeling of distance created by my inability to learn the language. At school I never fared well with learning any language, even the ones deemed easier for westerners such as French or Spanish. Over the years I have tried on and off to motivate myself and sit down to study and learn this beautiful and difficult language, but it was always to no avail.

Recently I learned of an app called HelloTalk. Before going further I have to add that I am in no way affiliated with this app. It has a very basic selling point, which is that it allows you to message and talk with people who are looking to learn languages. I decided to download and give it a try. It has a simple layout, and sentences and phrases come up in a twitter like feed that are submitted by users. You can then correct these sentences and aid people in their study of foreign languages. Now my original goal when downloading this was to improve my own Japanese skills by being able to converse with native speakers, and hopefully make some friends on there for when I eventually make the long trip over to visit. What better way to see the country than with local, native people who would be happy to show me around, because lets be honest, no guide book beats a local’s knowledge.

To my surprise, what I discovered while using the app, was that I was becoming less interested in utilising the wealth of knowledge to further my own means, but I was being drawn to helping those looking to improve their English. I would log on and rather than making an embarrassing attempt to write out some Japanese, I found myself navigating each time to the posts submitted for correction. I would correct a few sentences, maybe make a comment or two on their excellent attempts at English, and try my best to explain the reasons for said corrections. Over days of using the app, I would strike up conversations with some of the people who I was helping, so much that they would often send me direct messages asking if I would become their language partners. Joyfully I accepted these offers and noticed that not once since downloading had I actually posted something myself.

This may seem to most like a fairly trivial thing. Most people by nature are helpful and willing to offer some assistance to someone in need. However for myself this had never come easily. I was not a bad person, it was that my bouts of depression and anxiety had left me very guarded and closed off from people so I was never in a position where I felt I could offer someone help. For the same reasons I mentioned in a previous blog about trying to get out each week to walk and aid in my physical rehabilitation, this app was helping me to rehabilitate my mind and how I was interacting with people. I am starting to feel a sense of pride and happiness in logging on daily to help a stranger living thousands of miles away to pursue a goal that is so similar to my own. I am hoping that I can continue to help others in some way, and who knows, maybe improve my own mental well being in the process.

The main point of this post today is to try and promote a little bit of positivity in the world. When you begin to open yourself to the idea of helping others, you can find the opposite occurring also. Try and do one kind thing today for someone and I believe you too can feel a sense of satisfaction and pride in your day.

Today; A walk on the coast

This was the view that greeted me this morning on the walk to my local shop. It is not a long walk, maybe 10 minutes total, but it gets me up and out of the house first thing which I find a massive motivation.

I decided to call a friend and see if they felt like going for a casual stroll along the coast. The reason being I have been trying hard in the past month to get out more and enjoy the city I call home; Plymouth. It is so quick and easy to complain that your town or city has nothing to do, but it is also quick and easy to forget that you need to be looking first. I have become used to the feeling that things should be falling into my lap, and because this doesn’t happen often I start to feel like there is nothing of beauty around me. Sitting at home on the sofa muttering “urgh this place is rubbish, there is nothing to do or see” has become a staple of my life.

This is changing. It has to. Without going into too much detail, I have sunk into a feeling of depression over the past year that has had a major impact on me, both physically and mentally. I am miserable to be around, never want to leave my house, and have gained a significant amount of weight. The ideas that depression plants in your head are like thorny roots that dig in and it first appears that nothing will shift them. I don’t want these thorns in my head anymore and I figured I needed to stop blaming my surroundings for these thoughts and look a little closer to home.

My goal so far this past month has been to get out each weekend and see my city in its bright summer glory. The first weekend I took it nice and slow and went to a local woods with a friend for about an hour. Wandering among the trees I felt a sense of happiness that no amount of video games or Netflix was giving me.

The following week we went on a longer walk around a local reservoir, that took about 1.5 hours. Although the route was even and flat, I found myself mildly out of breath at points, and working up a bit of a sweat. My feelings of happiness being outside where becoming tared with thoughts like “how have you let yourself become so out of shape” and “you’re sweaty, your friend is going to think you’re gross”. But thanks to some words of encouragement from my friend, I saw these thoughts for what they were. Depression desperately digging its claws into my head. You see, for people who haven’t experienced depression, it is hard to explain that your own thoughts become your own undoing. They feed on you, but this time I was going to starve them of their one source of nutrition. My thoughts. I ignored the voices and carried on. Getting breathless again, getting sweaty again, and getting tired was no longer feeding these thoughts. Instead they were fueling ME. Making me want to push harder and break through that barrier. And I did.

The next week we went for another walk, slightly shorter at around 45 minutes, but in the picturesque grounds of Saltram house. This walk takes you around the grounds of a large stately home with paths through the woods and along the estuary. This time I had no thoughts in my head other than “those dogs are having fun in the water” or “I wonder what they do with the trees that they have been felling”. I was learning week by week to ignore any negative thoughts and it was starting to have the desired effect.

Which brings me to today. Today we took ourselves around an area called Jennycliff.

Starting in a car park and following the path around the coast it was again a fairly short walk totaling about an hour (including a 10 minute wait for a coffee at a cafe along the route). The sun was out and the breeze from the sea made the world of difference to my heat levels. As mentioned in the first blog post, I am hoping to show anyone reading what someone in their mid 30s with no clear life goals or career does to try and get by in this world. So this is a bit of a detour from that topic, and depression is not the main focus of this blog, however I wanted to touch on it in this post to give you all an idea of what caused me to take the turns that my life has taken in recent months and years.

Moving forward I am going to get out every weekend and continue the walks in different areas surrounding me. This is to help with losing weight, clearing my head and generally making me feel better about my life. Hopefully you will enjoy reading this and any future posts. We all have to start somewhere, and this is my start.

This part is called; I started today

Hi there everyone and welcome to my first blog from ‘Ill do it tomorrow’ by myself Brad.

In this blog I will be telling you about the sometimes exciting, but often mind numbingly dull life of someone in their mid to late 30s, with no clear career path or life goals. But for this maiden voyage ill be giving you an introduction to me and inviting you to join me on the journey.

Now I was born in Canada and moved to the UK at a young age. Like most people I attended school and went onto college, however for various reasons never progressed further into University. Maybe because I wasn’t interested in the study anymore, or maybe because growing up 6 foot 5 i was living my uni lifestyle of drink, partying and recklessness when I was a teenager, as I already looked about 26.

One of the pitfalls you can find yourself falling into when you leave education with no clear career plans is a sense of not really knowing what you should be doing with your life. If you wanted to be a doctor growing up then you have a very structured plan ahead of you; School, College, Uni, Medical School, Hospital Placements etc etc. But what about someone whose only ambition as a child was to be a space fireman, orbiting planets looking for intergalactic fires to put out? They certainly didn’t teach that in my careers class at school. So what happens next for someone with no idea where they are going? I liken it to getting into a car with no destination in Google Maps. You will drive for a while, get tired or bored, pull over and look at the view for a few minutes, and then sit back behind the wheel asking your bewildered passengers “WHERE ARE WE GOING?” which is then met with a chorus of “you’re driving, you decide”. This reflects life quite well I find when you don’t have a path in mind. The car is your life, the driver is you, and all the stops and scenic views are random moments in your life. People will get in and out of the car, but most wont stay if you are just driving around aimlessly, and inevitably will ask you to pull over and let them out due to boredom.

So how do you plot your course when you have no idea of where to go? For one this blog is not a self help guide. I am not going to be answering these questions for you in a manner akin to laying on a shrinks couch and opening up your deepest darkest memories of your childhood traumas. Instead we will be discussing the problems that arise because of this, things I have tried to do to change this, and of course regrets and things that looking back I wish I had done differently. BUT, on the flip side, I will also hopefully entertain you with stories of the great moments that I wouldn’t have got to experience if it wasn’t for the route my life had taken.

We all have to start somewhere. And I started today.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com