It’s a funny thing: age. The fear of getting old permeates society like a virus and it’s truly atrocious. It’s horrid for men and women alike. You spend all of childhood itching to turn 18 or 21 or whatever other age is considered “adult” in your part of the world and then within a few years you’re desperately clinging onto that youth for fear of wrinkles, shriveled ovaries and dying alone. I’m kidding, guys…

I turned 28 yesterday and I’ve had a merry old time reflecting on my twenties thus far. The cringeworthy clothing choices, the poor decisions, the loves and losses and the hilarious adventures around the world have all shaped me into a woman I’m pretty damn proud to put out into this mental society as I perch here typing this. I still walk the earth without the foggiest idea of where I might end up, but I’m a little better equipped to deal with the setbacks these days.

The first time that I can recall having any sense of dread about turning one year older was my twenty-fifth birthday. For some reason that one seemed like I was suddenly getting old. (I speak about this like it was many years in the past; I’m aware that this was just 3 years prior, guys. I know…)

Twenty-five seemed like the year that I was supposed to have my shit together: be the epitomy of success and happiness intertwined into one big, sickening, chunder bucket. By twenty-five we’re supposed to have found the one, be climbing our career ladders, be earning at least a little money and be thinking about buying a house. My reality is that I spent more time moping around my apartment suffering from depression as a result of hormonal birth control than living it up. The year came and went in a blur of blubbering.

Fast-forward three years and I’ve come to realise that all of those aforementioned expectations were utter insanity. However, we live life, we hear things, and our subconscious becomes adulterated with thoughts that are not our own, even though we adopt them as such nonetheless. Society expects things of us and we of it. Only, you’ve got to ask: who actually are these elusive men and women ticking all the boxes? Because I have friends around the world and I sure as hell haven’t encountered any of them!

I’m closer to thirty than twenty and I no longer get asked for ID when I buy booze. I have bills and responsibilities and an actual grown up job. I can no longer stay up all night partying and head straight to work without injecting caffeine or hiding in the cupboard to take a nap. I spend more on my skincare now because the dewiness needs a little helping hand. I don’t care if I look like I’m wearing a potato sack on a night out: I prioritise comfort.

But I also have more confidence than I did back in the days when my skin looked radiant without any sleep and I had the world in the palm of my hand. I’m more savvy and give less of a crap about going to buy groceries in my pyjamas. I would rather be alone than date someone who wastes my time and energy. I still dream (and I dream BIG), but a pearl of wisdom tells me that I probably should try and build up some savings soon and I definitely should prioritise sleep if I want to be a capable, functioning human in my waking life.

It’s a pity that we get so caught up on aging. The fear still lingers somewhere within my bones, but I’m very aware of it now and working actively to dissipate it. It’s hard when we’ve got a market saturated with angi-aging products and images that tell us that young is most beautiful, but beauty is such a complex thing and truly in the eye of the beholder. I look at twenty-one year olds and some of them are physically glowing, but have they learned what I have? Probably not. And can they hold a conversation as well as my friends in their thirties? Almost certainly not.

To all my friends in their late twenties and early thirties: I want to tell you that it’s all right if you’re climbing a career ladder that you aren’t sure is for you. It’s fine that you’re frustrated that all your friends are getting married and popping kids out and you’re nowhere near finding anyone you want to spend more than a drunken night with. That sensation you feel pushing at the walls of your chest to get out and see the world before it is burned alive is normal. And yes, it’s fine to spend the money you’re saving for a house deposit on that adventure of a lifetime instead.

None of us really know what we’re doing. All we must do is try our best and make the best decision we can in a given moment, based on the information we have at that time. Some will lead down paths of opportunity and abundance. Others wont. But that’s the only way to learn and then do better, isn’t it?

I’m twenty eight and I now know what I like. Also, importantly, I know what I don’t like. I no longer waste my time on people who can’t give me what I want. I am happy to have those uncomfortable conversations around taboo topics, if others are willing to engage in a constructive discussion, but I no longer give an ounce of attention to those that leave me feeling sour. I’m single, on the cusp of changing career paths and sometimes told by older generations that I’m far too opinionated to ever have a chance at being a nice, young lady. Tis a shame that some feel this way; can’t they see that I’m only trying to get shit done and save the world?

To all my friends approaching thirty: we are smarter and wiser than we were at the start of this decade. We’ve learned heaps about ourselves and others and the world that – trust me – we will put to good use in the years to come. We have the tools to make the world a better place and are still allowed to have a sense of adventure and wonder. It’s time to grab life by the balls and tell anyone who wants to stamp on our dreams that they can go do one because we deserve nothing but magic.

The other night I watched Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution (available on Netflix). It’s a feature length documentary all about modern-day hook-up culture and the way that it is, essentially, destroying a generation. I could not recommend it more. It’s hard to stomach, but a glaringly-obvious call for change that every man and woman needs to see.

You might not be a college student on a spring break sexscapade, but you are without a doubt influenced by the social pressures placed upon you as a man or woman. This documentary does an excellent job at highlighting the ways that we’ve created our own culture of sexual violation and violence, objectification and isolation. We’ve let this happen to ourselves. So, we can keep complaining if we like, about how boys will be boys, but we are a key driving force in the proliferation of the problem as long as we continue to support this current paradigm. Big changes desperately need to be made; huge!

None of us should have to grow up faster than we are ready to, but the reality is that most of us do. We might come from a broken home that requires us to parent ourselves or younger siblings while we’re still just fledglings. We might have found ourselves mixed up in the wrong crowd in school that seemed to cause things to spiral out of control in the blink of an eye. And before we know it, we’ve been given an identity and a place in this world without actually having had much say in the matter at all.

So let’s talk about sex and sexual identity, because what we learn about sex while we’re growing up will shape our subconscious for the years that follow. If we are constantly bombarded with a negative perception, this will permeate into our lives unless we become conscious of it and try to fix our relationship with it. We learn this stuff from our family, friends, pop culture, social media and the ample supply of pornography that saturates the world.

Ladies: do you remember the first time that you realised you were being looked up and down like a piece of meat? I mean, you probably don’t remember the exact first time, but you might recall the sensation of suddenly getting boobs or hips and the creeping self-consciousness that ensued; that sudden awareness of your self and how you looked and how others noticed you that made you stop and have to think about whether you were doing things right and worse, if you were good enough.

And it never stops.

You go through life and the older you get, the less of a shit you give if you’ve got any sense. You realise that you’re enough as you are and that there are far more important things to spend your time on than frantically dilly-dallying over your appearance. But the cat calls and the male harassment never goes away and on a bad day, it can really feel like the nail in the coffin. For who are these men to make us feel like prey items? Who are they to be so disrespectful as to treat us like objects? Do they not realise we are humans with feelings, deserving of respect? No, clearly not.

But who made them that way after all? Are these men born with it in their DNA? No, of course they’re not. It’s a learned behaviour. And where does it come from? It’s comes from the messages that seep into their subconscious via popular culture. These are the same messages that tell me that in order to be successful, I must look like [insert female pop artist here] and prance around barely-clothed. That’s how I can become a great woman.

[I read the above once over and I sort of sound like a ‘SEX IS BAD!’ religious fanatic and I promise you, that could not be further from the truth. My opinion is that our relationship with sex and the way we define genders is terrible in today’s society. That’s what I’m getting at.]

Within each of us are both divine masculine and feminine energies. Men generally embody more of the former and women, the latter. The divine masculine is focus and strength and logic. It is the quest for improvement and truth. It is reason and survival and loyalty. The divine feminine on the otherhand is nurturing and gentle. It is healing, wise, patient and emotional. It is intuitive and expressive. Polar opposites meet somewhere in the middle and an excellent, balanced human is made.

So how did it get this messed up, then? Was it Playboy? Was it MTV? Was it the Bible?! Does finding the source of blame even help us move forward? I think it’s all much of a muchness, to be honest and if it’s improvement that we seek, then focusing on the past in too much detail might not necessarily get us anywhere, anytime soon.

As Libertated quite rightly points out, we live in this tragic time when women are seen as things to conquer by many men and women see each other as tough competition for who can turn the most heads. It’s as though the men are all captains of their own sports teams and the women in a giant cattle pen of sorts, left powerless; their fate in the hands of the guy that might just pick them.

Fuck. That. Says. I.

We need to realise that sex is a vessel for more than physical gratification, because we sure as hell don’t seem to realise it. At its most sensational, it is a tangible expression of emotional connection. And it does all kinds of crazy stuff to our bodies (crazy good). But at its most destructive, it serves only to numb us temporarily, from whatever inner turmoil we’ve got going on.

When sex, or rather, conquests, are used as something men hold over one another to decide who embodies the most masculinity, it is a cruel, waste of energy. And when women compete to be the top choice of said men, it is an inauthentic isolation from sisterhood. We’ve got ourselves so caught up in worrying what everyone else thinks that we’re missing what’s there. Sacrificing fulfillment of our own needs and joy for the sake of pleasing others? And it’s all very bizarre because surely those that love us would not want us to find ourselves in that position?

The plot thickens.

We have a deep desperation to be somebody; the best type of somebody. One that’s adored and epitomises one or other of the genders that we feel we resonate most with. That’s what it really comes down to: acceptance. Only, our perceptions about what defines the genders is incredibly out of whack. The day we start allowing each other to be the people that we actually want to be, rather than the people we feel we ought to be will be the day that we stop with all this bullshit.

The problem with this whole hook-up culture is that it means we’re missing what’s there. We’re suffering an unimaginable loss of genuine connection with one another and it’s wreaking havoc. The entire point of life is to follow your joy and make meaningful connections with others. Every positive memory you have has a feeling signature attached to it that your moments shared with other people created for you. But if we’re missing the opportunity for connection, I truly fear the repurcussions long term.

An unhealthy balance of energies in men and women is what is causing some men to think it’s OK to treat women as objects; like cars they can buy. It’s a constant effort to try to get the one that’s the most attractive, until boredom strikes and then it’s back to the barrel. And when women aren’t seen as people on the same level, terrible things can happen and a lot of unnecessary pain can fester. When we are treated like posessions, our subconscious makes us question our own self-worth. If the messages women are bombarded with from popular culture and their peers are ones of superficial qualities deemed vastly more important than things which truly matter, we begin to believe them. And that’s a sad day for everyone. There is nothing more fierce than a woman made to feel empowered and nothing more courageous than a man who encourages it.

 

May has been and gone in the blink of an eye, but boy, what a month it has been! I write this from the patio of my new home, freshly returned from a spot of frolicking in the wilderness of Colorado and the Pacific Northwest. It’s a hard life, isn’t it?

It’s a weird thing coming back from your vacation to the unfamiliarity of a new home. Jetlagged and in desperate need of both a shower and the use of a washing machine, I knew not how to work the shower and scalded myself in my delirious state and my washing machine hasn’t yet arrived. It feels a bit like I’m still traveling; still on the journey. And I suppose I will be until I’ve settled in and made this bombsite feel like home. But in the meantime, I have a south-facing garden that is a heavenly oasis upon which to sip my morning brew. Life could be worse.

I digress! The subject of today’s post is an account of an important lesson I’ve learned. One I want to shout from the rooftops! Schooltime with Kennedy, if you will. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it absolutely has a tendency to lurk in plain sight; fooling us all. It’s the key to happiness; to fulfillment; to contentment. You’re dying to know, aren’t you?

I was stateside this past month visiting friends for the first time in a long time. It was much-needed after a very stressful couple years. So, we packed the trip full to the brim and explored far and wide, leaving little time for twiddling our thumbs. That suited me just fine.

If you’re fortunate enough to have done your fair share of traveling, you’ll likely understand what I mean when I say that some places call to the soul more than others. It’s never logical, either. It’s entirely emotional and mysterious and magical and shouldn’t be stared at too closely. A bit like the sun. These feelings guide us; in tune with our gut instinct and our sense of spirit that drives us from our very foundations, these sensations are to be respected. If you simply don’t like a place – even if you can’t quite articulate why – trust that that’s enough. You don’t need to psychoanalyse all of the sensations. The beauty of our incredible internal guidance system is that it can handle the wheel remarkably well, if only we let it. The struggle comes when we try to slip into manual override as though we know what’s best for ourselves (we don’t).

It’s impossibly difficult to follow your gut instinct 100% of the time, though I believe that it is in these moments that we faulter that most of our mistakes can be linked to. How many times can you recall saying to yourself, “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted him!” or “I knew I had a bad feeling about that car,” etc? If it’s anything like me, your response is “countless”.

If we all learned to follow our guts a little more and our brains a little less, we’d be well on the way to living happier, more fulfilling lives. The whole point of life; all we ever try to do (whether we’re consciously aware of it or not) is to follow our joy. These is no feeling remotely comparable to the immense satisfaction of feeling like you’re in the right place. Where you’re meant to be. It stimulates this sense of home or belonging that could never be matched by bricks and cement alone (no matter how physically beautiful the structure). Akin to the “flow state”, following your joy is the practice of choosing to pursue what feels good, because, well, it feels good.

It sounds easy right? It sounds So. Damn. Easy. But it isn’t. Especially if you’re not in the practice of doing this already. In fact, for most of us it is the complete opposite: a challenge that must be chipped away at, like Michelangelo’s David. Our brains tell us no, but our body is telling us yeeesss (#sorrynotsorry for that). If you’ve been raised to believe you’re a smart girl (or guy) who has always done the logical thing, you’re essentially on a par with a newborn baby in terms of life experience following your gut. Scary thought, huh? Although actually, the baby has an advantage, somewhat. At least they are starting with a clean slate. You might well have to undo years of terrible decision-making and face things like ending your relationship, changing careers or moving halfway across the world to get back on track with your soul’s desires.

But before I scare you off, let me emphasise that any trade-offs end up with you better off every single time. One hundred percent success rate, people! Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad right? Any uncomfortable, intermediate stages of stress/anger/sadness/frustration are only fleeting, soon to be replaced by better-than-your-wildest dreams kinds of things. Alluring, huh?

The process for following your gut is incredibly simple really; you make all of your decisions based off of feeling rather than logic. It can certainly take some practice though, so here’s a good place to start if you really feel like you have no idea and are, like, totally overwhelmed by this potential lifestyle change.

  1. Start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that jazz. Start with decisions as simple as which brand of lotion to buy, or which hot drink to order in the coffee shop. Practice the art of making choices that are totally in line with where you’re at on any given day.
  2. Get familiar with “the feeling”. If you’re totally out of touch with your gut instinct, a really easy practice to follow is taking some time out in a quiet seat or lying flat on your back. Place your hands to your solar plexus and then, allow your thoughts to drift over the following, paying attention to the sensations that arise in your body:
    1. Your pet
    2. Your partner
    3. Your child
    4. Your favourite vacation
    5. Someone who has let you down
    6. Something unjust going on in the world right now
    7. A time that you hurt someone

You’ll notice that there is a feeling signature assigned to each of the above. You can choose to articulate the emotions either aloud to yourself or written in a journal if this helps. The point is, notice the physical sensations that arise as you think through all of these different things. When faced with a new decision, our gut will echo these sensations. It’s important that we take note and pick the one that is uplifting rather than the one that causes that heavy, knotted sensation at our core.

Life is indeed much like Forest’s box of chocolates. You really don’t know what you’re gonna get. But making decisions that are aligned with our gut instinct will either generate more of the good stuff, or more of the bad. I know which one I’d rather. I encourage you to follow suit.

I’ve come to realise something that’s really thrown me. And if you know me well, you’ll know that I live for this kind of stuff. I’m game for anything that turns my thinking on its head and forces me to reassess my perspective and where I stand. Because after all, what is life if not one big, long, lesson? Some parts more comfortable than others.

Let’s backtrack for a minute to last September when this all started. I took a month off social media and boy, was that a good call. You can read about it here, if you like. It allowed me to gain some all important perspective on why it was causing me so much stress; why I was oscillating between trying to convince myself I could handle it one minute and then wanting to run in the other direction the next. The lesson learned was simple, really. I was struggling because I’m a human. An imperfect, emotional human. And last I checked, everyone else using social media is human too (alien conspiracy theories aside), which must mean that the things I was feeling were being felt by everyone else too. More on that later.

The entire point of life is to experience joy and make connections. No, not the superficial kind consisting of follows and likes, but the kind where communication takes the form of body language and expression. The kind where ideas are encouraged and something beautiful churned out because two heads are better than one. Meaningful relationships where we see the bad alongside the good in a person and accept it; supporting them and understanding why they are who they are by really seeing them through walking a mile in his or her shoes.

But we’ve walked a dangerously sharp knife edge as we’ve let social media rule our lives in recent years, without really understanding that it cannot ever be a substitute for genuine, human interaction. It isn’t a supplement; It’s just another way that we can spend our time.

As soon as I realised this, I was freed. It was really that simple. I had wriggled free of its tight grip that had suffocated me for so long. That, and realising that it was a tool that I could use to start conversations and implement social change; a way of sharing my lifestyle and beliefs in the hope that I could encourage others to make different choices; choices that I believed were kinder to our environment. But don’t get me wrong; I don’t know all the answers and I openly welcome a discussion around anything that I post about. It’s how I learn. I’m self-assured, but at the same time I understand that I don’t know all the solutions and sometimes I am wrong.

When I came back from my month off social media last year, I also made a pretty huge life choice; I came off hormonal birth control that I had been taking for near on a decade. That’s a whole other topic (that you can read about here), but one that also fits into the puzzle. It allowed me to get to know my true self for the first time in years. Kind of a big deal. And in the process of transitioning from numb human to sprightly self, I realised that something else had been bumming me out as I’d been trying to “do” social media; I wasn’t really following those who inspired me. So, I switched my focus from brands and individuals who didn’t seem to have values that aligned with my own and I tell ya, it made all the difference.

These days, I relish the fact that I’ve been able to cultivate some really special connections with actual humans who are passionate about the same things that I am interested in. We encourage each other, educate each other and shine as bright little beacons in a world that often feels very dark and cold. It’s a world that feels like it can break you and beat you down and, well, win. And that’s why social media isn’t the problem. It’s the scapegoat.

The various avenues of social media have never been the cause of our anxiety, misery and loneliness as I’ve seen them portrayed to be and as I, too, believed. They’ve never been deleterious to our health. What we have been and continue to struggle with is our own shadows; the work that we need to put in for ourselves to be better, to heal and to succeed. We are a broken people raised by parents who never knew any better and brought up in an education system that does us no good. We are square pegs meticulously forced into round holes and we’re deeply unhappy because we have this yearning to be more creative than society is set up for us to live and thrive in.

We’re expected to be happy and have our shit together at all times. Because God forbid we openly admit that we’re not doing so great. God forbid that we ask for the world to cut us some slack and give us some breathing room. There’s money to be made and mouths to stay locked and emotions never allowed to see the light of day.

Only, time’s up, isn’t it?

Ah, yes. We’re at tipping point. In all aspects, from all angles, a paradigm long overdue a shift in a different direction. Because the world will keep on turning and technology keep on churning and there’s only one way to keep up: to wake up.

I look at social media now and I see it for what it is: a marvelous, beautiful, expansive tool that can be used to change the world for better. And I’m already seeing it: exponential growth in encouragement and cultivation of ideas and momentum continues to build each day. If you’re struggling, know that you too can learn to see things from a more positive place, but only if you put the work in first. We need to stop blaming social media for all of our problems and instead look in the mirror. All that social media does is highlight our shadows; those parts within us that need care and attention. It’s hard work and perfectly natural to want to turn the other way rather than put the effort in, but use those uncomfortable truths as focal points for where change needs to be made within yourself. I cannot encourage you enough. Only when you’re all right shining a light on yourself because you’re proud of who you are and truly want to encourage others to be their best selves and the world a better place will you feel comfortable using social media. 

Take the time off, do the work and come back stronger. You can change the world, but first you have to change yourself.

Urban sprawl is seen around the world as a by-product of our growing populations and corporate-run, capitalist economies. We have more cities than every before and the cities themselves are expanding to keep up with our growth at huge cost to the environment.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve lived in an urban environment at least once in your life. You might be sat at a computer next to a window plagued by pigeons while sirens scream by in the distance as you digest this very sentence. But if, like me, you found it all just a bit too much and decided to retire somewhere less dirty and crowded, you now read this from the quiet confines of the countryside where you can hear the trees sway and the birds sing.

It’s a shame really, because cities really do have so much potential. So much excitement and opportunity. But often there’s a dark side in the form of smog, noise, light pollution and quite a lot of loneliness.

We’re faced with an interesting challenge as we cruise on through the 21st century. In the western world, old folks are living longer than ever before. We’re also seeing a decrease in infant mortality and overall a better quality of life than we saw in the 1900’s. That’s not to say that we don’t now face a different set of problems (cue: climate change, air pollution, loneliness, depression, obesity etc.), but in terms of years spent alive and roaming the planet, there has been a definite increase.

And that’s great. And inevitable. We humans are thrilled with a project; a conundrum; a challenge. If there’s a way we can find a cure for something and make our lives better in some way, we’ll damn well persist until we’ve achieved it. It’s a beautiful thing, really. The forever quest to utopia.

But the problem is that we’re not improving our habitats as quickly as we need to, in order to support an increasing and ageing population. By habitat I’m referring to that which we – humans – live in. Our neighbourhoods. Our communities. We’re running on old-school logic in a modern world that needs more and better. And what does it come down to, at its most basic level? The economy. That’s the crux. That’s the awkward thing that no one wants to talk about, so of course I’m going to touch upon it here. It’s what I do.

A capitalist economy worked for a while. It got us to where we are today and in many ways I’m incredibly grateful for that. But it’s also limiting in so many ways. At its core, a capitalist economy is based on the owning of resources. Every business is created and run with a profit motive, offering goods or services in exchange for monetary gain. The problems come when the distribution of important resources required by the masses are controlled by only a select few. Sometimes we refer to this collective as “the 1%”. We might be dealing with a free market, but wealth distribution is anything but even throughout society. This, of course, is what results in a class system. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single good thing that comes from a class system.

In this current, capitalist regime, the emphasis is on jobs. Everyone’s got to have a job they can work at so they can make an income to spend on those things that they need, along with (wait for it) those things that corporations convince us that we need (cue: advertising). The more we spend, the more debt we find ourselves in, the more money we need, the harder we work, the more we spend to comfort ourselves. It’s an almighty viscious cycle.

The rich get richer and the poor die trying.

In a capitalist economy, the ulimate goal is to maximise profits – at whatever the cost. This may have worked for a while. But the thing is, it’s now 2018 and we’re at crisis point with our environment (you know, that thing that GIVES US LIFE?!) We’ve supported economic growth without considering the repurcussions. It’d be easy to put it down to a lack of education which, sure, was indeed the problem 100 years ago. But we have a whole host of incredibly bright and competent scientists around the globe throwing the figures at governments to no avail.

By this point you might be like, “OK, yadda yadda yadda Kat, what alternative is there?”

To which I respond, “Well, DUH, a resource-based economy!” (Cue: The Venus Project)

In a resource-based economy, the highest levels of technology are fully utilised and the resources we need distributed to all. At present, the very best technology to increase efficiency of transport, housing, crop growth, education, healthcare and all other areas of society only have one barrier between being put to use and remaining in a research facility: capital.

I’m not saying it’s an easy feat. It sure as hell isn’t. To breakdown everything that we’ve come to identify as normal and replace with something that isn’t such a struggle is bound to induce messy transition period. But it’s an absolute necessity worth striving for if we are to have any hope of a happy and healthy future.

The result is a city lifestyle that isn’t bathed in toxic air or filled with money-driven crime. It doesn’t have sky-high rent rates or inefficient public transport and endless traffic jams. The result is cities that are actually, well, pleasant, because there’s no pressure to own anything and have status because the concept is redundant. They boast all the perks of living in such a high concentration of people: the culture, the cuisine, the opportunities and amenities, but none of the cons.

I don’t know about you, but that’s an environment worth striving for, I think.

If this sounds like something you want to work towards too, I suggest starting here. And when you’re done with that, consider focusing your time and effort on living as sustainably as you can while operating in our current economy. Reduce your waste. Support businesses striving for circular economies. Work towards financial freedom so that you can make better decisions. And above all else, talk about it! Share this information with others and educate yourself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.