Sooooo. Life, eh? It's been weird, of late. I've lost count of the number of people who've contacted me to say they've had messages from a very much ex-friend asking about me recently, simply because I'm such a hot topic.
I don't watch the news. I AM THE NEWS. Albeit against my will.
I made a resolution that in 2017, I would walk away from negativity, rather than stick around and dwell on it. I told myself that I need more positivity in my life and that is exactly what I endeavour to find.
Now, I am a big believer in inspiration coming from strange places. I'm a pretty creative person and I know from my own experiences that I've been inspired by somewhat odd things, in the past. Even so, I was unprepared for just how much inspiration I would be able to draw from a gift I gave to myself, last week...
You see, I like big candles and I cannot lie (Baby Got Wax). Seriously, if you want to give me a gift (and please feel free; I've been rather down lately and I bloody love presents...), you literally can't go wrong with a scented, ideally decorative candle. Or several. Or wax melts.
OKAY, I HAVE AN ADDICTION.
Pictured: MY ROOM.
I recently acquired a set of three scented candles, which came in little glass jars with cute mottos on them. They are very me and I couldn't resist them. But the more I look at them, the more I realise that these three scented candles hold the key to my happiness in 2017.
Okay, not directly. My life isn't suddenly going to become all kittens and rainbows, just because my room happens to smell like mango, coconut or passionfruit (although damnit, that's a hell of a good start). It's more about what the little jars have written on them. I've realised that if I stick to the advice they give, positive changes will happen in my life. And maybe yours, too, if you decide, like me, to let a scented candle become your senpai...
So, what do these candles say, exactly?! Good question. Thanks for asking, because this blog would be really weird if I didn't explain further...
Recently, life has had way too much stress. Regular readers of this blog will know roughly why, so I'm not going to repeat myself (you know, because of the whole "don't dwell on negativity" vibe I've got going on), but suffice to say that silliness has not played nearly a big enough role as it should.
Life is short, guys. Way too short to worry about what crap anyone is saying behind your back, or whether you're wearing an outfit that's "in," or what random strangers you'll literally never meet again think of you.
So, you know what? Dress however you like. Dance, even if, like me, you have all the style and rhythm of a punctured spacehopper. Go to conventions and do cosplay. Stay up all night talking rubbish with your friends. Sing karaoke and do that dramatic clenched fist of emotion, even if you know you sound like a strangled frog. JUST STOP WORRYING SO MUCH.
Who cares if you're "cool"or not? What does it matter if you're 34 and you worship a pair of YouTubers more commonly adored by twelve year olds?!
That's Emma-speak for "I am SOPHISTICATED Phan Trash."
Be more silly. Laugh more. Have more days out with friends. Take your shoes off and run along a beach. And... Do other things that don't resemble tampon commercials. Look, I'm just saying HAVE FUN.
Or rather, the candle is telling you to do that. And who are you to turn down life advice from a candle?!
This candle was the reason I bought the set in the first place. Because honesty is my middle name.
Okay, so... It's actually Jane, but... Sshh.
Look, so many problems in life can be solved by just being honest with each other. You don't have to be tactless, rude or cruel. I'm not advocating you going around being all "ew, you like that skirt? It makes your ass look fat and the colour makes me want to dry heave." Believe it or not, there is a way to be honest without being needlessly brutal. You just have to be truthful and open, whilst maintaining your tact. You also don't have to give your negative opinions if you're not asked for them. It's not dishonest to decide not to say that you hate someone's outfit, or that their new perfume smells like wet dog, for example.
But when honesty is required, you should always give it. For example, if you don't want to do something that a friend thinks you're excited to do, you should tell that person - without them having to drag the truth out of you. Because keeping it to yourself and then blurting out at the last moment that you never wanted to do it in the first place? SUCKS. It hurts. And if you can't see that it hurts, even if a person is saying "hey, I wish you'd been honest, because now I'm hurt," might I suggest some kind of empathy eye-test?!
Be honest with the people around you - with tact and compassion taken into consideration - and they will respect you a whole lot more than they will if you keep everything to yourself, lie to them or purposefully withold select information. Even if you choose not to be entirely honest in order to protect someone's feelings, when they find out you've not told them the truth, they're quite possibly going to be angry and upset. And that's because nobody likes to feel as though people aren't being honest with them.
So, suck it up and just be truthful.
But, you know, feel free to sugar-coat your honesty a little more than this.
We all have bad days. We all get frustrated and angry. We can all be selfish. We all behave in ways we're not proud of when we're hungry. Okay, that last one might just be me...
But seriously, would it be so hard to take a little extra time to consider the people we share our lives - and the wider world - with?
Let's think a little harder about how our words and actions affect others.
Let's hold doors open for people.
Let's offer up our seats for someone else on a busy bus or train.
Let's genuinely put other people before ourselves, now and then.
I can remember, way back in the mists of time, attending a school assembly on the subject of "Small Acts of Kindness." I was about fifteen at the time, and my Head of Year was talking about how seemingly insignificant things we do for someone else can really make an impact on that person's day. As you can imagine, in a school full of teenagers, several of the audience members were more interested in whispering amongst themselves, or messing with their hair, or imagining a future in which they'd have mobile phones that didn't look like bricks and which featured a wider selection of games than just Snake...
But I remember really listening to that assembly and it having a massive impact on me. Partly because I was a largely friendless nerd who had nothing better to do but listen, but also because, even at that young age, I'd already experienced just how true the message my Head of Year was conveying actually was.
Just a couple of years earlier, when I was being horrifically bullied on the school bus (at a different school), there had been a day when, despite the phlegm-missiles being spat in my direction, or the words that cut like machetes that were whispered into my ears - and by extension, the ears of anyone close by - a boy I didn't know all that well had come and sat next to me on that bus. And, upon seeing and hearing what was going on, he had turned and snapped: "Why don't you leave her alone?!"
They didn't, of course, and he ended up being bullied as well, as a result. But that little act of kindness made me feel less alone. It made me smile, at a time when I had nothing to smile about. He went on to become a friend and, even though we lost touch many, many years ago (when we were both still in our teens), I've never forgotten him, or the kindness he showed.
The kids in that assembly hall with me all those years ago, laughed when our Head of Year told us that just giving someone a smile, or opening a door for them, could make a difference to their day. But I knew it was true back then and I know it to be true now. In the last three months, regular readers of this blog will know that I've struggled with depression. And truly, just having a stranger smile and hold a door, or a check-out operator make chit-chat with me, has genuinely made the difference between me thinking the world is a dark, nasty, friendless place, and thinking that actually, there is goodness to be found. Sounds crazy, but it's true.
So, be kind. Help someone out, without any expectation of reward. Consider how your actions affect others. Tell the people that you care about that they are amazing.
I've been binge-watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend a LOT lately and I have zero regrets.
I never expected, as I unwrapped this unassuming box of three scented candles, that the contents would have the power to give me a new perspective on life. But somehow, they have. I needed something to make me focus on the positive, instead of the negative. I needed a new motto to kick-start my 2017.
And now I have one: Be silly. Be Honest. Be kind.
I'm going to give it a try. Feel free to join me.