When my time of the month rolls around, by that I mean my article deadline, I usually write about a thought that has outstayed its welcome in taking up valuable brain space.
This month I don't particularly feel like there has been anything plaguing me for long enough to be defensive. Mostly, I suspect, because the month has flown by so fast that I haven't had as much time for ruminating as normal.
The busyness trap
It's hard not to be busy. I feel guilty or even suspicious if I don't have something planned for the day ahead of me. My job takes care of most of that for me but even the precious hours or days off I have seem wasted if they are not filled with a meeting or activity.
When I was younger it felt like the mark of popularity was having a busy social calendar. Now, it's a sign of an interesting, fulfilled individual.
Catching up with friends, being active, spending time on hobbies and taking up opportunities are great things in of themselves. But not to be overlooked is relaxing, going for walks, watching an entire television series in a day, whatever it is that makes you feel like you've spent time on yourself.
I remember about a year ago I used to choose the 45 minute walk to my old job as opposed to the ten minute bus ride. I came to love this time as I would use it to listen to an audio book or even just to enjoy some quiet time before having to put on my customer service persona for the day.
The safety net of routine
One of the most bizarre things about spending an extended period of time travelling is that unless you have some transport to catch then your days are without real structure or routine. It sounds like the dream: doing what you want when you want with no body telling you otherwise. In some ways it is.
However it is also disconcerting and at times quite daunting. You feel as though every day should be filled with something or else it is wasted.
It can take a while to accept that you can't have a life changing cultural encounter every day and that when it's bucketing it down with rain, it is okay to go to the cinema no matter where you are. It is also a fact that not matter if you take a 2 hour train journey or cross several time zones, a travel day is a travel day and you will be tired and not able to do a lot.
I'm not sure that I looked upon my six months of travel as 'real life' but there's no reason why it wasn't. I experienced a lot of things that I considered to be out of the ordinary but that doesn't make them any less real, the relationships I formed certainly were.
Now that I have settled down into a new routine I find myself losing some of the clarity I felt I had without one. It is difficult to not slip back into old habits of accumulating more things than I need and filling up my calendar so that I feel like a valuable person; because that's not where value comes from.
You're worth it
True value comes from within and it comes from God. It comes from knowing that your sense of worth does not change whether you worked out and ate a salad or whether you didn't leave your bed that day.
It comes from knowing that you are loved regardless of your relationship status. I believe if we all were truly at peace with our sense of self worth that we wouldn't work long hours doing anything we didn't want to; we would never feel peer pressure or that we weren't good enough. Unfortunately that's not true for most of us.
The saying "treat others how you would like to be treated" is one of the most important clichÃ©s I can think of. I would like to add to it treat yourself how you would like others to treat you and how God wants you to be treated.
Too often we accept things as normal or inevitable that actually aren't. You have to measure your happiness by your own scale and not settle for a situation that is less than you deserve. It can take a lot of trial and error but as long as you keep searching and re-evaluating your goals then at least you don't have to feel stuck.
Whatever it takes to feel like you are not a sub character in your own movie, you're worth it.
Helen McIntosh is a 22 year old from New Zealand living in England trying to create more than she consumes. Writing is a way of banishing any circulating thoughts to make way for the new.
Helen McIntosh's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/helen-mcintosh.html