The Year That Could Have Been

The end of each year, and the beginning of a new one mark a time for looking forward – to hope for better times ahead. Times that will be less stressful, filled with a little more joy, far less struggle, and a lot more success. While everyone around me prays for a better year ahead, to leave this year behind and surround themselves with positivity for the new year, I find myself always looking back. Looking back at what could have been. At the choices I made, the decisions I took, the people I left behind and those that I let in.

There’s always more of the former and a lot less of the latter in my case. I worry that some day there won’t be any on either side, but that’s a story for another day.

Each year tends to become about what could have been. What if I’d put in a little more effort, or any at all? What if I’d loved a little more? What if I’d put my foot down a little stronger? What if I’d said no? What if I’d said yes?

I’m someone who spends barely any time in the future, a little bit of it in the present, but a lot in the past. Internally, I obsess over my failures, flit over my successes and punish myself for not trying hard enough. Externally, it’s a completely different story.

And after years of doing so, of running this experiment on life playing the double role of the lab rat and the mad scientist, I’ve concluded that it doesn’t work. That I was wrong. It takes a lot for me to admit that I’m wrong, but I take solace in the fact that it was me who proved myself wrong. Narcissism at its finest.

The truth will set you free, but not until it’s done with you. And I’ve got the scars to prove it.

I’ve lost time in the present because I’ve been beating myself up over my past, worrying that the choices I made then paint a desolate picture of my future. But my past doesn’t decide my future. My present does. It’s not what I did then, it’s what I do now. And doing something now is important, otherwise it’s always about what I’ve already done.

Learn from your past and move on they say. Learning from your past is easy. Recognizing your mistakes and vowing you’ll never repeat them is simple. It’s the moving on part that’s hard. The forgiving yourself that feels impossible. The fear of repeating a mistake that’s crippling.

But do we have any other choice? Has it served anyone well for dwelling on the past for a moment too long? Is it a viable option to lock ourselves into the darkness, shying away from the light? To not attempt to sing because we went out of tune in public that one time? To not skate again because we fell once and sprained our ankle? To never love again because we were wronged a few summers ago?

Living in the past for too long can paralyze your present and obliterate your future. The past has been left behind for a reason. Learn from it, then leave it behind a locked door and throw away the key.

Beat yourself up for all the wrong choices you make. Punish yourself for not trying hard enough. Chastise yourself for the decisions that lead to bad situations and hardships.

But always remember to move on. To take a hit and keep moving forward. To learn, and to do your very best to never make the same mistake again. And even if you do, that’s fine too. You’ve been down this road before.

Don’t get sucked into the endless void of regret. Learn to fight your way out of it. Live in the present. Deal with what is now, and not what could have been. Living in the past is suffocating, living in the present will be liberating.

If your past calls, don’t answer. It has nothing new to say.

Happy New Year.

Augustus Waters is a Douche, and that’s Why Girls Love Him

Like every third person on the planet, I too picked up “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green and gave it a go. It’s a charming story, one of the few that’s gripped me enough to go through it end to end in a matter of days. I recommended it to most people I crossed on the street, a few on the bus, and to an unfortunate bunch at an assortment of urinals.

It’s touching and heart-breaking, and it’s safe to say that a 16 (or 26) year old would rather have the book hurled at them at full force because it would cause them less anguish than the story itself.

Let me quickly summarize it for you. Hazel is a terminally ill cancer patient who falls in love with the focus of this post (Augustus Waters) who is also a terminally ill cancer patient.

THE HORROR OF IT ALL.

Fairly predictably, they both die (clue: terminally ill), but not before embarking on a journey riddled with love so profound that even Romeo and Juliet would have obliged with a standing ovation, waving handkerchiefs et al.

So here’s the thing, Augustus Waters is perfect. Isn’t he, girls? My Facebook feed over the past month has been riddled with scores of girls (albeit, all in the 15-25 age group) swooning over the character of Augustus Waters, and cursing John Green for creating a man so perfect.

Except of course for the fact, that John Green did nothing of the sort.

Augustus Waters is a world-class douchebag, which is why the girls love him.

Pretty much this.

Gus Waters hates taking no for an answer, is pushy, latches on to the girl he likes, is riddled with metaphors, and often quotes (incorrectly) a number of philosophers. A conversation with Gus Waters involves him throwing the corniest of one-liners or the latest Facebook status messages at you, which may or may not have anything to do with the conversation at hand.

Of course, Hazel does feel like she’s having the deepest conversation of her life each time she speaks to Gus because no matter what she says, a brooding, “Life is all about the choices you make Hazel Grace, it defines your path”, would be a line suitable to be  infused into any sort of verbal exchange, wouldn’t it?

While he gets Hazel to blurt out everything about her life and share her deepest secrets, he reveals nothing of his own life to Hazel, because – if he doesn’t keep up that whole mysterious aura, what’s the point in this entire James Dean charade, right?

On closer inspection of Gus Waters, it’s revealed that the literature he has at hand are almost primarily centered around his favorite video games, yet his insistence on quoting Plato and Aristotle at the drop of a hat could be downright puzzling, but it fits into Gus Waters’ personality perfectly when you think about it. He fakes most of who he portrays himself to be.

Yes, Gus has a positive side to him, we all do. He truly cares about Hazel, he goes to exceptional lengths to make Hazel’s lifelong dream come true even though it’s been shattered once after a Herculean attempt from both parties involved.

Yet all said and done, Augustus Waters is far from the perfect man, and the fact that he is idolized by so many only drives home one simple fact: we love illusions.

And that’s exactly what Augustus Waters is – an illusion.

Photo Captions and You

Due to the nature of the work I do (and thankfully get paid for), I tend to spend a fair amount of time on social media. Translation: I get to spend all day on Facebook and Twitter, and every 27 and a half minutes I get to answer the question, “lol dude ur always on fb wtf man lol?”

What this also means is that I’m exposed (against my wishes) to a fair amount of photographs that have no business being on the internet. But I’ve made my peace with that. It’s a free world, people can express themselves via a medium of their choosing. I won’t really say anything against that otherwise the “Avtar = Stalin” posters will hit the printing machines again.

What I haven’t made my peace with is the kind of captions people think deserve to go with these photographs. Let me quickly plug in something very important, a life lesson for everyone: photo captions are optional. Always.

Since there are people out there who don’t believe in evolution (LOL BUT IF WE EVOLVED FROM MONKEYS EXPLAIN MONKEYS TO ME TODAY HAH GOTCHA!), I’m sure a few of you are skeptical about what sort of captions I’m talking about, or as they are more aptly called – craptions. Allow me to jog your memory and explain to you who these people are and what they do.

1. The Quote Junkies

“A woman should be two things, classy and fabulous” – Coco Chanel, reads a caption on a photo of a girl who just bought a new dress. Note: she may or may not be wearing the new dress, it might just be in a bag and she could be in the middle of a mall posing with it, the entire point of the photo now being that yes, I go to malls! I’M SUCH A SHOPAHOLIC LOL.

Or better yet, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” – Marilyn Monroe. I guess that’s what Hitler got wrong in World War 2, he wasn’t wearing the right loafers.

Great choice girls!

Good ol’ Marilyn Monroe.

I’ve seen these captions on at least 684 photos in the last year. It drives me absolutely fucking insane. Putting aside the fact that you’re quoting a Nazi spy (Coco Chanel) and Marilyn Monroe (explained above), you’re not being classy or fabulous by wearing a new dress, tilting your head to the side and smiling with one of your hands on your waist. It’s pretty much the same thing as me putting up a photo posing with a gun in it with the caption, “Where there is love, there is life.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

2. Hearts, Kisses and General Bullshitters

Last month, I removed someone from my friends list because of this. They uploaded an album with the title, “BEST DAY EVA <3 <3 <3”. Now if you went bungee jumping in New Zealand or if you cuddled puppies for the entire day at the pet shelter, I’d forgive you for your questionable grammar, spelling and album title, but you uploaded 184 photographs of you and your friends at Burger King and every photo had the caption, “besties 4 lyf <3 <3”.

There were 36 close-up photographs of french fries for fuck’s sake.

I did the only thing I could do. I commented on one of the photos which had all of them in it saying, “Can’t believe you guys are still friends after what she said about you” and then removed the person from my friends list. That probably ruffled a few feathers and caused a fair amount of suspicion.

3. Those Damn Hashtags Addicts

Let’s get this straight, you shouldn’t be using hashtags on Facebook. Ever. Even if you get money for it. Even though Facebook now supports hashtags, you still shouldn’t do it, primarily because Zuckerberg doesn’t either and all of Facebook realized how fucking stupid it was to incorporate hashtags. Enter Instagram, the only place on the internet apart from Twitter where you should use hashtags. And under no circumstances should you be using #swag or #yolo.

You're doing YOLO right.

You’re doing YOLO right.

Here’s a general rule of thumb, if you’re going to use a hashtag on Instagram, use at the most: two or three. That is all. Do not take a picture of yourself getting coffee and use the caption: #coffee #earlybirdgetstheworm #latte #starbucks #omgcoffee #needtostayup #zombiemodedeactivate #cantgetenoughcoffee #firstoftheday #yolo #swaghat #getthisdaystarted #conquertheworld #liveyourdreams #firstactivityoftheday #kickstart #caffeine #shotshotshotshot #toomanyhashtagslol #latergram #swag #yolopuppies.

4. The Storytellers

Tell me something honestly, do you think it’s appropriate for you to type out five paragraphs as a caption for a photograph? STOP THINKING, THE ANSWER IS NO DAMMIT. Oh yes, we have those too. Picture of a birthday cake, and a massive 500 word caption associated with it, thanking everyone who was involved in the baking of the cake, delivering it to the house and finally eating it. It’s amazing how at moments like these you tend to see the best in people. Send a damn e-mail. Jesus.

“And a big hug to [censored] for organizing this amazing surprise! What would I do without people like you!”

Bitch, you told me last weekend you hate his guts. You ain’t fooling no one.

Okay, maybe if it’s a birthday surprise and you’re thanking all your friends for getting you a cake and making you feel special – I can understand that. You want all your friends to know they’re appreciated (even though it’s a massive inconvenience to the rest of us) and you want it to be publicly shown and what not. Fair enough.

But. Sunday lunch with a couple of friends who you caught up with after a long time? Please don’t go and put up 300 words about how much you missed them as a photo caption. “We should do this more often!” will suffice.

Basic message: When it comes to photo captions, less is more.

gump-thatsall