Firstly, most people will read the title and expect me to start laying into organised religion… but, the fictional characters that govern our society are not always as bad as the very real characters that do it in reality! For the most part anyway, but we’ll get to that later.
Since December, I am somewhat of a nomad of the world. I work quite regularly in London but my partner and I decided to move our primary base to Poland. OMG!!!
Most people I talk to about this think Poland is a sort of 3rd world country, I had friends advise me not to do it because I’d “lose true contact with London life and the UK” but I did it anyway, because the thought of living in or around a concrete jungle, full of grumpy gits, just after I’d had a son (now 13 months old) was not really in keeping with what inspires me as a human being. Plus I love a bit of Ben Fogle’s lives in the wild, so I am always open to adventure.
Fundamentally what does this mean for my lifestyle in terms of the daily dynamic…
It means I still travel to London as often as I need, takes a couple of hours, no big deal. I don’t have to wake up and look out of the window at houses I can’t afford, surrounded (for the most part, not you Teresa) by people I didn’t choose to live alongside.
I don’t have to trudge home and wonder whether I will ever have more space for my dogs, or more freedom to get fit and clear my mind; or wonder when I will next have the time and energy to see my friends and connect.
I now have the ability to get everything I want out of life. I’m in an environment where I wake up every day and see green, we own the property, so tiny cost of living and I don’t have to ask permission if I want to change something. I’ve got a fair bit of land, so my dogs love their life! I walk 10 minutes across the road and I’m at the base of a mountain, an actual mountain not a theoretical one… what more do you need?
Everything in life that generates you revenue, can be done from a laptop and with a phone. I’m a commercial consultant as a primary profession now, working with brands to help them create unique and different commercial partnerships and ultimately build their customer bases and revenue. Which to be honest I enjoy a lot because I have a huge impact on how those companies think and act and how their internal teams work as human beings and that’s something I get a lot of fulfillment out of despite the vanity of London.
That said, I’m not working with too many entrepreneurs in this space, it’s primarily full time staff, so people don’t quite “get me”.
I’m the guy who’s currently considering taking his son at 5 years old travelling around the world until he starts secondary school, because it’s far more interesting to learn maths, science, history, geography etc. when you’re actually there with that elephant in Africa, or you’re learning why the toilets flush differently on either side of the equator…
So safe to say I’m a bit of an enigma to some people.
That aside, when I come to London now it’s more meaningful, I focus on priorities and not frivolities, I get to stay with friends and spend more quality time with them being real human beings, not just nipping for a quick pint and chatting sh*t.
When I moved over here I wanted to change my mindset. I was no longer going to stifle my interests or creativity and I wanted to allow myself to be free. And funnily enough, I was thrust into the thick of that decision making process pretty early on.
Locally, my partner knew some guys in a sort of experimental rock band, who were looking for a front-man. Obviously all the guys are Polish, but they’d been through a few singers and didn’t really like them, so they kicked them out and continued their search. That’s one thing I like about Polish people, they don’t mess around, they tell it how it is and they are people who just get it done!
So I put together some songs that I enjoy and thought, OK, lets just acapella this and let them know how ‘I’ do rock music!
However, when I arrived they didn’t want to hear my prepared songs or get a gauge for my voice. They simply wanted me to stand in front of a microphone and have a stab at making lyrics up as they played.
Ok… so at this point I don’t know the guys at all, only one of them, I don’t know their likes and dislikes, they already have some nice sounding songs, but everything’s instrumental so there’s obviously a process there and I don’t want to ruin the sound of the songs or offend them with a change of context.
That said, I set all that aside in my mind, because they didn’t give me time for the anxiety of it all to be honest. And I just had a go. I tried to pick up repeat elements in the music to see where a chorus might fit against a verse and to be honest I’d never done that sort of thing before and I was terrified that they’d just write me off as being crap and never actually get to hear my voice or anything that I do well…
I’m not the best singer, but I’ve got a few skills and frankly Robbie Williams was pretty shank and he’s still massively popular, so although I don’t want to be Robbie Williams, nor do I really have a care as to whether I gain any popularity from my music, it was a healthy exercise in trying something new that scares you and just diving into the fear/anxiety and swimming through it.
8 weeks in and our first gig is this weekend. They don’t care that all my lyrics are English, they care that I rode the wave and dealt with the issue. I have written 5 songs to date against their instrumental, which has evolved to fit the fluidity of my text and we are rocking and rolling, so to speak.
So, I’m randomly in a Polish rock band… that’s how that one went… but I have to say, it’s a chance to properly perform again and do something creative; and sure, all my lyrics are a bit on the darker side, but, as the guys said to me on the first night I turned up, “Thomas, this is just about therapy, we all have crazy lives, kids and jobs, but here we are free” and we genuinely are in those moments.
So forget fear, give everything a shot and if you’re scared, then just dive in!
Now, on the latter part of my “blog fuel” I almost don’t want to touch on this subject, because people can’t have a general conversation about religion without it getting all political or taking it too seriously and I simply don’t care about the subject that much to get into that kind of debate. But somethings grating on me and I have to put it out there.
Why is it, that people think my issues surrounding mental health can be cured by “God”?
It’s been a consistent theme over the past 3 years as my presence has grown in the mental health space, in the UK & Europe and now as far afield as Asia.
People keep trying to impress on me that if I turn to God, he will rid me of my sins and anxieties and I will be happy forever.
Now, I don’t want to offend anyone, but my fundamental opinion of religion is that it was designed to instill order, during a period of time when the general populace was restless and in creating a hierarchical structure, which included tithes and investment from the working classes, control was able to be enforced on an emotive level, but primarily based off the back of fear. Fear of what God might do if I’m a bad boy, for the most part.
Obviously there’s a bit more to it, but essentially the bible is the most popular selling fictional text on the planet, most likely that’s why it’s a difficult topic to touch. Especially when you care about people in general and you believe everyone has the right to be themselves.
You see, some of my close family are religious, a number of my friends are religious, we all need an outlet and if thinking through a problem feels better when directing your questions to someone else, then it’s easier to accept the answers that ‘you’ create, if you believe they’re from someone else, looking on impartially/objectively. Of course, my opinion is that you’re asking yourself the questions and coming up with the answers by yourself, but many people don’t feel strong enough to do that and I think religion is primarily an outlet for people to try and bring a linear meaning to their struggle and the journey they face, regardless of how strong or weak you feel as an individual.
That’s definitely a positive thing, caring and giving and not killing people, all great points too.
Crusaders, Catholics harbouring Hitler across Europe, Gold Crucifix obsessions, the Pope as a symbol of God on earth “to kiss the hand, or not to kiss the hand?” not really my vibe. The Dali Llama isn’t racking up golden goblets or living in presidential palaces right? So you tell me who’s pure of heart!
The issue I have is not with religion, the issue I have is that we are each free as individuals to explore whatever brings us energy. And I don’t believe that you should try and impress any sort of viewpoint on someone, to the point that they feel oppressed into change. Giving information and your learning’s as a person, freely, in context, is one thing, so that others can make informed decisions, but there’s a point that you need to drop it.
The difficulty for me is that I don’t force my opinions on other people. If you don’t want to support mental health, no worries, if you don’t like a brand I’m working with, you’re just not the demographic, everyone should be free to choose their lifestyle and how they ride the wave of life and people on the doorstep trying to preach, because they need the extra points for the end gain; people blowing themselves and other people up because they may get a few more virgins in heaven than the next guy; parents enforcing their beliefs upon their children, this is just not acceptable behaviour, again in my opinion, but also in the opinion of many many others.
And whats also not acceptable is people trying to tell me that my life would be better if I subscribe to what I believe to be a fictional character. I’m not telling people that to be honest, you get more results off the letters to Santa at Christmas, than prayers… Or that because Barney the Dinosaur only speaks of positive things, he’s the messiah…
There are people who believe in the true values surrounding God. And I feel in those people, that there’s just a genuine presence and energy that’s positive and caring, it would probably be there without their religion, but if that’s what drew it from within them, then why do I care? For me it’s about the fact that they’re there in life and they bring something to the plate. But for the most part people get pissed off if you don’t agree with their beliefs surrounding the most intense topics and to be honest my life was founded off the back of arguing in my ears every day and frankly I don’t want to have that any more.
I don’t even know where I’m going with this point, I just think as human beings we should all just ebb and flow together, trying to understand more deeply how to interact or a real level…
You aren’t what you do for a living…
You aren’t your religion…
You aren’t your race, or your country of origin…
We are just people, and we’re all facing varying degrees of trauma as we find our way on this path through life… None of you know better… We are equals irrespective of finance, social status, or how well we can photo-shop our face for Instagram.
So just brush the personal belief to one side and be human for a moment. I’m not a peace loving hippy right here either, so don’t write off the concept because you think I might be all about a joint and some love. We just all know it’s true, but we’re drawn to dramatics, so forget the anxiety that many thrive off, just be a good person.
The answer’s inside you already, you know it so I don’t even have to tell you, but we all have to start by accepting it within ourselves.