Message in a bottle
Why I’m here and why you might like to pop the cork off the bottle
I’ve lost count of the number of drafts for this story. I’ve been wanting to write on Medium for years. For years, I’ve been silenced by a demanding Inner Critic that kept repeating that what I thought had already been said by countless others, so why bother. There were a few false starts, but I quickly gave up again. What has helped me to break the silence was to get as clear as I could about why I wanted to write — clear in my heart, and with a clean ego.
The message in the bottle that I’m throwing out into the virtual sea of the digital world is simple:
Is there anybody out there who is worried about what’s going on in the world right now, and what are you doing in response?
I’m asking because I really want to know. Because I’m curious, because I’m looking for inspiration and I want to do my bit in return.
What I’m planning to do on Medium
Some context first. I’ve been paying more and more attention to what’s going on in the world since the beginning of the pandemic. Over time, a sense that something is not quite right (beyond the obvious pandemic and economic crisis) has become something I can no longer ignore. Right. So, for me, the first thing to do is understand what the f*ck is happening. It’s only by understanding what’s going on that I/we are going to figure out what to do about it.
I want to share what I’m understanding and I want to share ideas about what to do about it.
And here’s why:
I want to share what I’m understanding because I’m very aware that I only have a very (very) limited perspective on what’s really going on. The starting position has to be that I only have access to what my life (more on that below) has given me access to. I want to share my ideas in the hope of engaging a conversation with a wider range of people than my default networks (created by my socio-economic background and lived experience) naturally connect me with. And most digital social networks’ algorithms don’t help to change that because their goal is very narrow: profit and growth. Very different motivation. Anyway, that is definitely the topic of one of the articles I want to write.
I would like to engage in conversation to build a more holistic picture about what’s going on because I smell a rat. But I’d like to have a real conversation about it, meaning agreeing that there is an unavoidable problem and talking about potential solutions instead of arguing about whose fault it is in the first place. I’m not interested in justifying my version of the world at the expense of anybody else’s version of the world. I’m bored with that approach, I’m ready to move on to something else. And I don’t want to do it alone, naturally 😁
I want to say a word about why I don’t feel the need to impose my version of the world because this matters. The reason is that I am totally comfortable with the fact that there is so much I don’t know. It seems to me that admitting you don’t know out loud (let alone to yourself) is a bit of a taboo. It took me a while to get to the place where I can acknowledge this publicly 😆. I might write about how I got there if anyone is interested (let me know in the comments or by private note). For now, all I want to say is: I’ve become totally comfortable with not knowing – what that has opened up for me is that I’m able to look forward to seeing where this bottle floats to, with awe and excitement without attachment to the destination, or the exact itinerary. It’s so much nicer to be able to embrace the uncertainty of writing into the void rather than fearing it and giving up. [For anyone who decides to click on the link: it’s a great article by Allison Gaines with, in my opinion, some quality advice on how to start writing online if it’s something you’ve thought about yourself, dear reader, and I thought a lot of what she said was some wise advice about how to develop enriching connections online generally, a topic close to my heart; thanks, Allison]
I also want to share ideas about what to do about what’s going on in the world. With my particular take on what’s going on, I’ve come up with some practical advice that I think could help anyone interested in adjusting to the currently uncertain and unpredictable environment we live in. And I want to hear what others are doing because it will inspire me. I know it will give me ideas to improve my day-to-day and it will feed my reflection on what is going on. Just the idea of all those goodies makes me want to bounce! 🕴🏻😄
So what’s the rat?
I have an overarching story for what is going on, based on what I have been observing and investigating. I plan to make that the topic of a number of stories (I imagine, at this stage). Here are the broad trends that I have observed:
- humans have developed the ability to control life: we can create it artificially and we can destroy it in oh so many different ways.
- humans have developed the ability to manipulate the environment on the planet, for better and for worse.
- humans have become one heterogeneous entity through the impact of “globalisation” and digital technology.
- the above seem like sufficient conditions for a small group of humans to decide the fate of the planet and all the other humans on it.
- the existing political and economic system based on the idea of perpetual growth is failing.
This is the background against which I try and assess the events of the last couple of years or so. Where I am today is that I am increasingly struggling to accept the argument the media are conveying that the measures that are being taken by governments around the world are just to protect public health. I think something else is going on and it concerns me because I see the suffering it’s creating for the majority because of the impact on the economy and restrictions on the individual freedom of movement. And what I’m also seeing is that humans are developing an understanding of themselves that has the potential to completely transform how they experience life. I intend to write about this. Probably a lot.
What the rat sniffed
I think we’re facing tough times. I have a sense that more of us are going to experience real/material/concrete restrictions in more areas of our lives and that all things digital are going to become more and more prominent in how we live.
I’m not scared of that happening anymore. I used to be. Very. Because I felt overwhelmed by what felt like the all-encompassing scope of “the system”. It made me feel out of control and helpless. Unpleasant feelings. There were feelings of depression too. Instead of ignoring these feelings or pushing them away, I decided to accept them and get curious about them. Maybe I’ll write about that journey. For now, I just want to say:
It doesn’t have to be that way.
We have more control over our lives than we’re given to believe. What I’m discovering for myself is that control lies in the small things. The details of your life and how you live it. Over that, you have a choice.
What I’m also curious about is whether/how each of us realising that we have control over those small details of our lives can change our collective experience of a system breaking down. I hope developing relationships in the digital world will give me an insight into that too.
Details about me and my life
Who I am and the life I’ve had so far permeate what I say. I see things the way I do because I have had the life experience I’ve had. It may blind me to what I take for granted, the assumptions underlying how I make sense of things. By definition, I can’t see what’s in the blind spot, but someone else can. So I want to equip you, dear reader, to (kindly) point out anything you see that I don’t. I’d really like that. It’s the only way to progress, really.
I was born in 1979 in Brussels, Belgium. That makes me a member of Generation X.
My parents were born just after the end of the Second World War. They are ‘Baby Boomers’. My father has a British passport, my mother a Belgian one. I’ve had a British passport since birth and asked for Belgian identity documents in 2021 following Brexit.
Both branches of my lineage were heavily affected by the Holocaust. Two generations were almost entirely wiped out. Great grandparents and their siblings, my paternal grandfather’s entire family (bar one brother who died on the battlefield in Tunisia) died in the concentration camps, mainly Auschwitz, I believe. They were Dutch, Belgian, British. For years, the fate of my family felt like a heavy burden. It took me time to change my relationship to the history of my family, but I see their gift to me now: they gave me a profound reverence for life, freedom as a core value, and to them I dedicate my newfound capacity to go looking for joy and compassion in challenging times.
My parents decided to leave Belgium when I was four, we moved to South Africa (during Apartheid) where we lived for three years. Aged seven, we moved to France where I lived for 14 years. Aged 20, I moved to the UK to continue my studies. I lived and worked in London for almost 20 years. In January 2020, I moved back to France with my partner. Brexit was not the main reason. We live with my parents. (There’s also a story behind that, if you want to hear it.)
Work and education were core values in both of my parents’ families. A lot of emphasis was put on getting a good degree and a good, professional job. I wanted to be an actress from the age of 4 to 20. There was no way that was going to fly with my parents! So I studied law. My parents were able to pay for my whole education. I started my active life with no debts. I’m aware of what a privilege that is.
I tried working as a lawyer. When I moved to London, I qualified as a barrister (the ones with the wigs and long black robes that you can see in English court dramas). I hated it and left as soon as I finished my training. I wanted to turn my back on the law entirely, but I didn’t know what to do instead. I had also already invested eight years of my life to get the qualifications; eight years felt like a long time when I was 25! So instead of changing paths completely, I pivoted: I became what’s known as a “company secretary”. That is someone who works in big corporate organisations dealing with a wide array of matters relating to governance (how decisions are made within and by companies) and corporate rules and regulations (lots to comply with). Towards the end of my time in corporate, I would go into work and ask myself most days: “Is this really it?”
After one failed attempt to escape the corporate world in 2012, I eventually left and retrained as a life coach in 2015. I feel uncomfortable with the title because there is so much bullsh*t in the industry, but it’s the most convenient way to describe what interests me today: I support people to connect to who they are and what is really important to them (not what they think should be important), to navigate their worlds in a more pleasant way — if I can put it that way!
That’s what I do today that pays me money to live. I do that with individuals and groups of individuals in a variety of settings, private and corporate. I’m enjoying the group work more and more because I see how much richer the work is as a result of going on this journey of self-discovery in the company of others.
I need to state one thing very clearly here so it’s out of the way: writing on Medium is not an attempt to market my services as a life coach or as anything else. The work I do is relevant because it shapes how I think and approach what’s going on in the world, especially when it comes to what to do about it. That’s the only reason I’m mentioning it. If you read what I write in future, you’ll see that there is a focus on the mind and consciousness, and that I’m always looking for practical ways (that actually work) to live a grounded, meaningful and nourishing life, as much as possible in any circumstances.
How I am planning to be on Medium
I hope to connect with some people in a meaningful way on this platform. I look forward to reading what they write, letting them know how it impacts and inspires me, telling them why I love their writing, asking questions, listening to the answers, giving heart-felt emotional support when appropriate. I’ll often invite people to remember what really matters, because I know that I often forget and need to remind myself.
I’m curious about who will pick up this bottle in the sea.
Hope to see ya around, whoever ya are. 😁
Thanks to Stacy Raye Kellogg for the supportive feedback on the draft of this article, which helped to hit the ‘Publish’ button ~ I love getting to co-create and be in connection with you too!
by the author.