Those mistakes that shape our lives

Just as business tend to evolve thanks to failures and improvements, I strongly think that we tend to evolve through our mistakes, our errors and regrets. But I also strongly believe that not all errors are equal, and that in each of our lives, we’re making what I call some major formative mistake. Usually we don’t realize it when we’re doing them, but when time passes by and we’re looking backward, we tend to see them clearly for what they are.

Those mistakes are deeply formative in our characters, as making them make us evolve toward a greater human being. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb said, those mistakes are making us a bit more antifragile, as we’re building on them or rather, because of them. They are easy to identify when you’re a bit distanced from them, as they usually pack a lot of regrets. You wish you had taken another decision, another path, acted differently, … But when you look how you acted after those mistakes, you also realize that you learned a lot, you’re not making the same mistake.

Looking back, I’m able to count three major mistakes in my life. The first one was hurting someone I really loved through acts I deeply regretted. It took me 2 years to gain forgiveness from the other person, but 5 years to forgive myself. This mistake forever changed the way I envision and act into all my relationships since then, in a better way. It also made me gain a best friend and someone I don’t want to lose at all in my life.

The second was taking some distance from a friend as I felt it could endanger my relationship. Two years after I had the chance to make amend, talk with him and explain why I reacted this way and how stupid I was. Three days ago, this friend died. This mistake taught me to always be open about what you’re feeling and thinking but also, the hard way, that the people in our lives don’t last forever and that we have to act on our problem as soon as possible, when we still have the chance to.

The third one was both personal and professional as I let my ego get in the way and cloud my judgment, taking a non calculated risk that almost destroyed a lot of my relationships and career path. This mistake taught me to not let your ego get in the way and also to always listen to opposite advice. It also teached me to be more careful and consider every possibility before taking a decision. It also teached me to listen to my guts and to refuse something if it doesn’t feel right.

Those three mistakes shaped my personality and the way I’m thinking today by hitting hard on three major aspects of life: love, friendship and work. But I would say I have been “lucky” enough to have the chance to build on them, and to have the chance to make amend to both my ex lover and my friend before it was too late. Talking with a lot of people, I realized that everybody didn’t had this chance in their life unfortunately. Still those mistakes defined them, shaped their characters in a more profound way than everything else.

So if you have the chance, take a look backward, what are those decisions, those acts that you deeply regret? Can you still act on them and, if another person if involved, ask forgiveness? While those mistakes shape us, we don’t have to let them leave open wounds in our lives, scars are a way to keep the teaching while still healing.

You have the choice

There are some conversations where you realize a lot about yourself, how and why you act the way you do. I remember a particular one with a friend of mine, as we were discussing our shared professional past. I remember talking about how unhappy I was and how I felt I was slowly dying for such a long time, expressing some bitterness over the job. That’s when she told me “but you had the choice, you could have left”. That particular sentence really hit me hard.

It hit me hard because she was right, I could have. In fact, looking back now, everything at this time was already in my hands, but instead of acting on it, and changing my life, I decided to stick in a job that was slowly killing me. I stayed because of multiple factors, the main one being fear. I was terribly afraid to find myself losing my flat, ending up on the streets, … (drama much ? I must admit). So afraid in fact that I was ready to go all the way straight to the burn out just because I was too afraid to make a decision I knew was the right one but where I couldn’t predict a 100% success rate.

The problem is that nothing in life has a 100% success rate, we can never be assured that everything will go well. Things can go wrong, but they can also go pretty right, we can’t predict them. Most of the time we get over it, being able to make decisions, go on with our lives, but sometimes, for big decisions, we tend to postpone, waiting for this 100% rate solution, this perfect answer. And even if we’re unhappy in our current situation, at least we know it, we own it (or rather, it owns us). So we stick to things we don’t like, in jobs that are sometimes depleting us from exactly who we are, because taking the chance to make a change is frightening.

Sometimes those choices end up being bad. As I said, we can never know. The only thing we can do is to avoid to end up in a state of learned helplessness and not to let those failures own us. Because even if something fails we can learn from it. And if something succeed, we’re gaining a bit more confidence, a bit more self-trust, and we finally escape situations that destroy us. Do not let fear take the best of you, take the leap, trust in your guts because that’s what life is made of. Keep learning, keep growing, keep choosing.

Diving into adulthood

I’ve always had troubles to relate to my age. While I know it’s only a number, I can’t stop thinking that those years are slowly counting and growing in numbers (still can’t believe I’m reaching my 30s in one year). For years, I stubbornly refused to become an adult, deciding that it was something I didn’t relate to, staying in some kind of pre-adult years (or more post-teenage years).

However, lately things changed a lot. While 2016 was a terrible year for a lot of people (and for the world), it was for me one of the most formative year I’ve ever encountered. I never felt myself getting older than I did during last year, taking decisions that changed my life totally: quitting smoking totally, deciding to leave my job and go full freelance, learning what I needed and wanted in several aspects of my life.

While 2017 didn’t start as well as I had wished, it’s still packing a lot of promises on the professional level, with a tremendous amount of project being planned for the coming weeks. It’s even a bit frightening how much I’m investing into my work life lately but, well, sometimes it’s necessary and it’s for the better.

I always had some troubles identifying as an adult due to the fact that I’m still looking quite young (with people giving me 23 years old it doesn’t help), but finally, at 29, I’ve decided to accept myself as an adult person, and to accept that I could have insights, opinions, things to say, … that were as valuable as the other adults I’ve ever encountered.

I’m still, and will still look younger than my age for (I hope) a long time, but I know that now my mindset has changed, now I can finally say that I’ve entered adulthood, or at least entered what I consider to be adulthood. It might not look like much, or something I should have done years ago, but for me it was finally being able to stand on the same ground as lot of people I’m working with, and this has forever changed the way I look at things.

Rise of the orators

Politics. I thought I’d never get back into this, having lost the willingness to understand their shoutings, their fightings, this unbearable division of our society in smaller and smaller parts. But here we go again, as it seems it has become unavoidable lately unfortunately. You might have noticed how it has changed in the last years, losing most of its messages for those strong figures, those talkers, those new orators. As it seems, we’ll never really understand history lessons while we’re bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over, giving up again our convictions, our ideas, for a person that is able to empower a crowd, to rise the angriness and play with the people struggles.

I seem to remember a time, not so long ago, where politics were an idea, a hope, something that we’d look upon to for our future, to build something. Yes they were humans, making mistakes, falling into the same traps we all fall into, but at least they were trying to build something greater than them. Then somewhere along the road we lost this, this willingness to overcome our present to aim for a better future. In the last years, by a dictatorship of the majority, we let orators take bit by bit the power of our democracies. And every time someone tries to warn us, we’re bound to say that “it’s not the same, you’re going to far”. But yes, it is the same, it has always been the same, since the dawn of democracy. As democracy in itself has the root of its destruction. As we’re humans and imperfects, we’re bound to fall to great speeches, to those men and women that can directly talk to our most primary feelings. Anger, fear, sadness, … those are the things they use against us.

Bit by bit, politics has become a giant circus, where the message doesn’t tell much but where what’s relevant is who says it and how. Marketing has embraced politics, shaping our debates with the most terrifying weapons we could think of to shape human minds. There’s not a single bit of project in their message, just crazy talks about how those “others” are “dangerous”, “rapists”, “thieves”, “strange”, “different”. And everyday we’re falling more and more into this sadistic game.

In the United States, we let a terrible man reach the highest states of power, in Turkey we’re giving more and more power to a man who has everything of a dictator, in Belgium we let our politics divide us and block our country about useless things, in Hungary and Chechnya we let them build new camps to protect us from those “others”, in the United Kingdoms we let populists break one of the most beautiful idea our democracies had ever made, in France the current race for presidency has become a nightmare on every side with almost each candidate playing on fear, angriness, avoiding the uneasy questions, and almost all of them trying to control our medias, our information, the fifth pillar of our power.

People have never been this passionate about politics on the other side. But for the wrong reasons. We’re dwelling into a war of feelings, not ideas anymore, refusing to hear the complains of the people who do not think like us, who dare to support another candidate, another hope. As we met the orators win the power, we also let the most demagogues, the most enraged people steal every single topic of discussion we can find. It has now became impossible to talk about racism, LGBT rights, foreign policy, health, or anything on each side. In a time where we’d desperately need moderate people to build a future we could all aim for, we let our society become a gigantic battlefield of fanatics.

And each day, those fanatics are reinforcing our cleavages, by pushing away people who are not truly against them, but aren’t just agreeing with all their agenda. By alienating those diverse opinions to fall into a black and white divide, we’re destroying our democracies and letting the power into the hands of those Manichean orators. We pushed away moderates from the scene and replaced them by performers. But performers, might they be black or white, aren’t willing to build a future. They’re willing to build up their power, their ego, as it’s the exact thing that put them into this position. And every time we try to talk about them, we’re accused of strengthening them, killing in itself the basic idea of a democratic discussion.

We’re all prone to failure, that our beauty and our curse, but still I hope this is not too late. Now I look to France, hoping that my predictions won’t come true, that we won’t let fear win, but still. Still I hope to see moderates come back on the scene, daring to explain to the common people that the world isn’t black and white, daring to challenge people with complex ideas, with real projects encompassing all of our society, embracing our differences. I hope to see moderates fight the fanatics from every side of the battle and tell them that they do not have the right to confiscate our societies, to go on further in this division war we’re in it. Because our world is a colorful rainbow, and it’s in this diversity that we’ll be able to build something greater than us.

Every story of tragedy has a story of heroïsm to go with it. For every Holocaust, there’s a Schindler
 — N.K. Jemisin

Coming to terms with our world

Recently I’ve just finished the book The Path by Michael Puett, which gave me a lot to think about on life, its struggles, success and things I had difficult times to understand.

In today’s society, we tend to conform to a lot of labels. I went through a lot of them myself: HSP, introvert, INTJ, high IQ person, gay, at some point even borderline and depressive (I’ll take the chance to talk about this more in-depth later I think). We tend to conform to those labels at some point. While they help us finding our place in our society and help us understand who we are, often they end up blocking us or giving false excuses to some behaviors we may adopt.

Discovering asian philosophy through this book, I’ve come to understand how we’re forever a changing person. Who I am can’t really be defined by a label, especially because I tend to change from time to time, from the people I meet to the situation I find myself in. I’ve always had troubles to understand how I could be so extrovert in my work, being sometimes quite assertive, while on opposite being so introvert when I was meeting another guy, having a lot of troubles to engage in a discussion except in a one to one basis. Identifying myself as an introvert tend to make some of my best friends laugh quite a lot, themselves labelling me « the most social introvert in the world ».

But we’re forever changing, there’s no stable self, just as our world is not coherent nor unchanging. We tend to make plans, projections, based on who we are at the moment and who we think we will be in the future. By doing so, we’re cutting ourselves from the complexities of live and the real messy world we live in.

And while some parts of those labels have a deep meaning for me (I’ll always experiment deeper emotions than most of the other human beings, my mind is also working at a faster rate and behaving differently, those are things that supposedly will never change), lately I’ve felt some other labels blocking me. As I’ve always defined myself as gay, lately I found myself having some real crush on some girls, which led to a real struggle in my mind. Those things may change, and I’ve come to accept myself as a « work in progress ».

Same goes for my line of work. Having worked for 8 years now, the job I’m doing now is totally different from what I had in my mind when I finished my degree in graphic design. But I changed, I made choices, I decided to progressively change my career path depending on what attracted me at the moment I was encountering them. And for this I’m so grateful we live in a world where there’s so much possibilities to develop our potential. Too often I found people struggling with a diploma that wasn’t right for them anymore, feeling stuck in their life. Nowadays you have the chance to change, you can bend your life and reorient your path. I deeply believe that each one of us has the possibility to divert, to take another path at anytime. We’re only stuck in our minds.

Lately my life has dramatically changed. This is something I’ll take the time to reflect on by the end of the year, but those changes were fundamentally necessary and even if some things aren’t yet perfect (and some will never be I guess), I finally feel at ease with the path I’m travelling on. After years of trying to understand the logic behind the world, behind human behavior, behind relationships, I’ve finally accepted that our world and ourselves are not logical beings, as much as we’d like to be. We live in a messy and unpredictable world and while this might induce some fear, this also means that everything is possible. So go, grow, take the path you want to take, and become the person you want to be. Because time is flowing by and this might be the only true thing we can get behind.

« You eliminate your ability to grow as a person because you are limiting that growth to what is in the best interests of the person you happen to be right now, and not the person you will become. » — Michael Puett, The Path

The sad state of the gay dating apps scene

Some days ago I encountered an article which provoked a chain of reactions in my mind. It was even not an article, just an amount of statistics about the apps that makes their users the most happy/unhappy. And at the top of the unhappy users you could find Grindr, consuming 61 minutes a day of its user base and making it 77% unhappy. At a time where there’s a lot of thinking going about how our social medias applications makes us unhappy, and the current state of our gay scene (see this interesting article about gay loneliness), those stats are quite appealing.

Let’s not fantasize, Grindr is basically a meat market. It’s even of one the reason where I find the whole debate about those “no fem, no fat, no asian” as some small detail of it. The whole way this app works rests solely on the physical level. Let’s face it, nobody reads your description. Even if you craft it very well, even if you invest time on it, even if you have a lot to tell, the way the app is built rests solely on this small square. This creates this endless sea of torsos you can find. For everyone who doesn’t fit in those “fit” criterias, Grindr is basically a soul-crushing machine in an endless quest to destroy your self-esteem by forcing you to compare to standards almost unable to accomplish for any human being.

On top of that we’re making it even worse. I get the whole “an absence of response is a response”, we all faced some perverts dragging us through conversations about things we didn’t want to do (or even hear about), but let’s face it honestly : not responding to someone is just plainly rude. Yes some people can’t take a no, yes some people can force you, but not answering to a simple “Hi, how are you?” isn’t an answer, it’s a slap in the face in the most careless way. And I did it, and we all did, but while the gay scene was supposed to be a place where we could all be ourselves, find acceptance, sometimes help, we’re slowly transforming it into a digital inhuman place where if you don’t have those perfect abs, you’re basically not even worth talking to.

And those apps also reinforce our own self-destruction system. By feeding us with rejection, through those absence of answers, those unrealistic body expectations, we’re bit by bit destroying our own self-esteem. The end result of this whole ecosystem? Even when we find ourselves in the real life gay scene, we’re too afraid to approach someone. So we switch those apps on, hoping that this guy who caught our eye will be online, not even daring to talk to him as he’s drinking one meter away, crushed as we are by those rejections be expose ourselves on a day-to-day basis. Too many times I had a guy crying on my shoulder, after a small talk, we’re the only thing I said was that he was beautiful, that he deserved to be loved. Not even in a flirty way, just because it was a fact that needed to be stated. But we became so afraid to show our weaknesses, fearing that those would provoke even more rejection that we’re not even capable anymore to compliment someone, even a friend.

Our behavior on Tinder isn’t that better. We accumulate matches like some social score, living in the worst Black Mirror episode ever. Most of the time we’re not even taking the time to send a message or answer to those people we matched with, stuck in a never-ending quest, persuaded we can find better if we only keep swiping. At the end of the evening and the beginning of the night, we’re stuck alone, swiping left or right without even starting a discussion.

The worst part of this gay digital ecosystem? We’re to blame for it. Yes Grindr and other apps put the focus on our bodies instead of our minds, but we are the one skipping description, avoiding discussions, destroying human interaction in our endless quest for a fantasized other half. Day after day, we’re building our own fortress of solitude, focusing our tired eyes on those small screens. In an era full of sex positivity, we’re killing human positivity. And by putting the focus constantly on sex positivity, we’re slowly forgetting any “love” positivity.

Obviously this is based on my experience, and some friend experience. For some people I’m sure that those apps do a lot of good, but I know for a fact that this is also soul crushing for a lot of us. But for those who can relate, please take some time to reflect on how we behave on those apps. And thrive to be more human. In an endless sea of torsos, dare to be the heart.

Introverts in a world of rainbow extroversion

I’ve always felt a bit distant from the LGBT world, felt like I didn’t fit in, that it wasn’t a place for me at all. But I came to think, thanks to the book Quiet by Susan Cain, that the main problem I have with the LGBT world is that it’s entirely aimed toward extroverts. I’ve never been the party kind or things like that (which has always sounded a bit weird to most of my friends…), but even in gay bars do I find it difficult.

Do you have any idea how incredibly difficult it is to talk to someone in those bars ? Or are you just supposed to keep on shouting over the latest pop star singer and hoping the other will hear you ? If only there were calm places where it’d be possible to just engage with people.

LGBT Parades & celebrations

“The gay man that stays clear of the pride parade is assumed many things,
his biggest offense being his refusal to join in the fight.”

Same goes for the Pride Parades, where I’ve been repeatedly targeted for not “fighting for our rights” or for being some kind of “closet-queen” because it was something I didn’t want to go to, but the fact is simply that, again, those parades are a pure demonstration of extroversion.

And while I find it cool and great for most people to be able to express their joy, the way they are, it’s really not my cup of tea at all. Being in big crowds freaks me out, sticking around with flamboyant guys slowly drains me out of energy so much that the only thing I want to do is go back to my flat and crawl into my bed.

While the extroverts may find it useful to be quite flamboyant, go march and things like that, I prefer to change minds by writing, talking, engaging with people in a one-to-one way, not in those kinds of celebrations. Thanks (again) to the Internet, I’ve found that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way (see here, and here, or even here), and even found virtual places with like-minded people (here goes to Gaybros & Gaymers) as the physical ones were impossible to find.

What I want to point out here is the fact that being an introvert doesn’t prevent me to defend LGBT rights, I only do it my own way, and perhaps in a more quiet but nonetheless powerful one (Hint : introvert is quite different from shy, even if sometimes they go hand in hand, it’s not always the case.) and it seems I’m not the only one (heck, even porn stars are ! Or have a look at Tim Cook.).

Finding love thanks to the Internet

“Perhaps social media affords us the control we lack in real life socializing: the screen as a barrier between us and the world.”
Susan Cain — Quiet

I’ve been told again and again that I should “go out and meet people”, go into those bars, those parties, … Thanks, but no thanks. First those places make me feel awkward as I’m unable to speak or hear other people, second I’m really not gifted at mixing and mingling with people when there’s like a hundred around.

Growing up and discovering I was gay, it was also easier for me to find informations in books instead of the bars, where I couldn’t relate to all those flamboyant and loudy guys. It’s through books I discovered I was not the only one, through books I understood my attraction, through books again I discovered like-minded peoples.

That’s also why I’m using the Internet and applications to find, connect and meet people. Because it gives me a space to express myself, because it allows me to start conversation in a calm and different way. While some website and apps are really agressive and, for me, present the same problems the gay places have (being pretty agressive and straight forward), I fell in love with OkCupid, which allowed me to speak about what I love and meet like-minded people. Even found my boyfriend there (kudos OkCupid !).

Being introvert also brings its troubles and fights (but well, what doesn’t?), and while I enjoy going out with some friends, it’s also difficult to explain that it can wear me out, or that I prefer having a drink at home with some friends than going to the super-fancy-nightclub surrounded by half naked bodies. But as you can see here, it’s something that is discussed more and more (want more advice on how to deal with introverts ? hint hint!).

The problem doesn’t find its roots within the internet or the apps, but definitely within the fact that we transformed every single gay place into a giant glittery beat box, where introverted ones are purely excluded (except at the cost of great lenghts and expenses), therefore killing every single space left for introverts.

Being truly inclusive

“In a universal church, there should be room for the un-gregarious.”
Susan Cain — Quiet

So I’m wondering more and more how we could all find places for everyone in the LGBT world. While the acronym grows bigger and bigger (last time I’ve checked it was something like that : LGBTQQIAAP), it could be nice to find a way to also includethe introvert part of the LGBT population by provide quiet times, or quiet places; the aim being not at all to avoid social contact, but on the contrary to provide something different, some space where it could, in the end, be possible to be more social than what we currently have. Just in a different way.

I’m still thinking about what could be achieved, but Ineeded to write this down. Because I know I’m not the only one, and I’m sure it’s possible to find a place for everyone and to allow everyone to socialize outside of the virtual circle. Maybe we can give it a try?