It derives from when I was very badly bullied…
Alex - 24. In a relationship. Analytics consultant from Sussex.
How are you?
I have been practising Buddhism since I was 16 so I tend to look at all aspects of myself - mind, body and spirit. My body is tired but that’s because it was a late night last night. In my mind there is an underlying discontentment. I think it’s to do with being in London and my job. The motions are getting very repetitive. I can't see the underlying purpose and then the weekend arrives. I go out, have a few drinks and repeat! There’s a discontentment and I don’t know how to get my head around it.
I have known for a while I was quite good at maths. I’m not going to pretend I didn't win the genetic lottery. I love maths, so why not change the world by using my brain and making the most of what I've got. In my job I was working on a government project and could see the real purpose in what I was doing then we didn't win any further contracts so I ended up just doing projects for growth and profits.
I have always been an extraverted character and my job is mainly from home. I think I need to go and do something where I meet people - maybe find a new hobby or sport.
What are your thoughts on relationships?
I’m in one and we have difficult moments. Culturally we are very different. My emotional mean - is not that big. If I am happy I’m not going to be ecstatic but equally if I am unhappy it wont go deep - where as she goes 'Bang! Bang1 Bang!'. If you level us out we would create a ‘normal’ human being. I love confident independent women, they’re interesting and intelligent and she is one. I've always needed a girl to call me out on my shit. I need to be challenged and boy does she challenge me. It keeps it interesting. I derived joy from someone else’s joy. I get that from my girlfriend when she’s doing something she loves. I cant see myself ever having an affair, I have these ridiculously high standards and I can’t break them.
What do you think about Marriage?
I want to get married. It's a societal recognition. Me dedicating myself to You and there’s a very loving thing in that. You're saying to everyone - this is the person for me. Marriage creates stability. It creates stability for children.
My parents actually do practise what they preach - they talk to each other. They have been incredibly loyal and supportive to one another. As children growing up our parents would include us in every big decision. My family have always been rock solid.
What do you think about children?
Being a father is something I know I want to do. I don't think I am ready now - I don't think I've reached full maturity to give that child what they deserve. I think I am still going through rocky bits in my own psyche. I know that it will bring me a level of joy that I will want eventually. When I have a family I will want to be able to provide, maybe I am part of the patriarchy but that’s how I see my role. I’m only talking personally, everyone else can do as they like!
How do you think other people see you?
My grandfather would say ‘He is sunshine and tears. He'll be happy most of the time but it's all building underneath’.
Loyal, kind hearted and on the intelligent front - ‘You're one of my most intelligent friends.’ I think people think I have a reasonably sized ego - self centred. At university people think I like being centre of attention but it's more likely I am just trying to liven up the atmosphere when sometimes it doesn’t need livening up - I can be exhausting.
How does the world of social media affect you?
I am unusual in that I don’t have Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat, I don’t care for social media. I have read the scientific effects - it's really a negative thing but I feel because I’m not on it I’m not ‘there’ sometimes. It’s part of our generation and if you’re not on it - you’re missing out.
Receiving a 'like' you get an endorphin fix - your brain gets used to it and then when you don't get one - you don’t feel so good! Social media is additive, it’s programmed to be that way. I don't want to be doing things in life for the recognition of doing things. I’ve grown up with how important it is for a photograph to be ‘just right’ so it makes for a good PC - (profile picture).
How do you see yourself?
One aways has to balance truth and ego in answering those sort of questions. I am often considered in my response. I have a creative mind rather than a reactive mind. I have a stubborn streak, fearlessly loyal and very family oriented.
Since the age of 17 I have never been insecure and I’m fortunate in that I don't get jealous over girlfriends, or concerned by the way I look. From the outside I can see that being misinterpreted as ego. I have a large head physically - people do think I am big headed.
It’s been said I have an old head on young shoulders. It derives from was I was very badly bullied from the ages of 9 - 16. It fundamentally changed parts of my character. The worst example was when I was 13. They pulled my trousers and pants completely down and I was hung upside down from a tree. People took pictures of me and put them on Facebook . There was a Facebook page called 'I hate Alex’. One of the worst cases was when someone stole a blade from wood work class and held it to my neck, it was really weird - why didn't I tell anyone?
When I was 9 - I was quizzed as to was I gay? I was ostracised, kicked and dragged around in mud. At high school I've never played the masculinity game. I think that fed into how they viewed me.
I would never admit this to my bullies but in the long term it’s had a positive affect - that’s not to say I loved being kicked on the ground but it led me to Buddhism. I think a lot of extremists have come from similar situations where they’ve been bullied and found the wrong path. Fortunately for me I went in a positive direction.
A Buddhist came into the school when I was 13 - all the other students were giggling but it really struck a chord with me. I started reading about it and thought - that's for me. At 16 I plucked up the courage to go to local centre and loved it. I joined the mens group and started helping the new comers. I understood it intellectually, it was such a good support from school life which, if I am honest, was shit! I found in the long run that my bullying was a positive thing which amazingly led me to a path which has given me such joy.
Every year our old school meet up - we go back to the pub in the local town, a school reunion of sorts. A few years after we’d left school, one guy was there who was one of the most prominent of the bullies. He asked if he could talk to me. He told me he was really sorry for everything. I wasn’t expecting it - I took my hat off to him. It was really good of him to do that. We not the closest of friend since but I have no animosity towards him. What is the point in holding on to it? It doesn't do any good to anyone. Even the bullies who haven’t said sorry - I take pity on them.
My mum didn't know anything about it because I bottled it up inside. If you tell there will be repercussions and knowing my mum, she would have made sure the bullies paid the consequences. In your heart of hearts you think you'll make the situation worse. I didn’t tell her until I was 20. My first holiday home after my first term at university, my mum said "I've got my Alex back”. I’d met people at uni who I could actively engage with. I didn't have the rucksack of emotional baggage to carry round with me anymore.
Where does all your energy go?
My work and my relationships. Because work just is - my spiritual and mental energy is always in my relationships. Not enough energy is going into fostering my own well being. It's really important for us all to take time for ourselves. I once said to myself - 'Alex you're the only person that spends 100% of your time with you. If you're not comfortable with that person then there's a problem’. I went off to Turkey for a month to find out who that person was.
If you don’t love yourself, aren't comfortable with yourself, calm within yourself - how can you possible help other people? They will see through your lies or you wont come across as genuine.
I go and sit by the river and watch the water, among the hustle and bustle I just observe. It makes you realise that anything can be going on in your world and it has almost no effect on what’s going on around you - it’s calming. I can have the worse, best or neutral day and the water is going to do exactly the same everyday and I love that. Everything is going to be fine. Am I really having an effect - no!
How do you feel about death?
I used to be really uncomfortable with the idea of my own death but one, it is inevitable and two, it has to happen. Scientists view death as a disease (I am not happy about them doing too much research in to that) but if we want the earth to continue and to be as nice for future generations as it is for us then we cant keep prolonging life.
Once I started conceptualising that I was going to die I started making plans. I decided I wanted to see all the terrains of the world, not every country, just every terrain. The rain forest, the dessert - everything. I want to talk to all kinds of people. I want to make sure that knowing death can happen at any moment that I am happy at the point of where I am. The journey is very much a part of that. If there was ever a point in time when I ask myself - am I happy with this and the answer is 'NO' then I will action accordingly. It goes back to my boxing things!
I’ve had a fascination with death for a long time. We once had a cat called Cybil. When I was 7 or 8, she had to be put down. We went to the vets I wanted to see it. I'd never seen death before. I was stroking her - then the injection went in and her breathing slowed. She died in my arms. I was fascinated. It was weird - was I a messed up kid? Her dying was so fascinating to me - there’s another realm that we don't know anything about. Death is such a taboo and no one talks about it. You’d think we’d all be talking about it - but we don't!
In Mexico there are three deaths. The first is when you actually die. The second is the funeral and you’re remembered, cremated or buried. It’s a very formal acknowledgment that the person has died. Then there’s the third death - when the last memory of you is gone. This is the most beautiful. For example Julius Caesar - the fact that I am saying his name shows he's still around. I have thought about the death of my family and saying something at the funeral. One thing I would say about each of them in turn - yes we've had the first, we are here for the second but the third is a long way off - look at all the people around us, we will be talking about the dead for a long time to come. I think that is a great way to think about death. It reminds you of that the impact a person has. Whilst I am alive everyone I know will never truly die because I will remember them.
What have you taken from doing this today?
It’s good to ask the question - How are you, honestly? I always think it’s a good thing to talk and it’s certainly made me think. Shall I go away? Will it will break the routine of going out getting drunk on the weekend and dealing with the parts of London I don’t like?
The ability to show ones subconscious in a free and expressive way with no boundaries. It has made me rethink a few things and I need to find a hobby beyond work and relationships - just doing something for me. You can always find the time for something if you prioritise.