Self-preservation is just NO FUN

Sun rise

Jamie: What do you think of yourself when you look back at what you wrote?

Natasha: I feel just slightly remorseful, as I was far more whacky, interesting, adventurous, irresponsible, self-destructive than I am today. What I gained in self-respect and self-awareness, I lost in character.

I was recently interviewed by Jamie Days for his remarkably extensive Eighties Diaries blog. His question above and my response to it has got me thinking. …

In my late teens and early twenties I was off the leash. I would arrive in foreign cities with nowhere to sleep—just to see what happened. I would take drugs I was offered and *then* ask what they did. I regularly talked to alcoholics on the street, shoplifted with abandon, squatted in my sister’s old council house after she moved out, mixed with gun-wielding drug dealers. I Let homeless people live in my room. When a man who had just moved into my set of bedsits introduced himself to me on the stairs—for the sake of openness—as a murderer who had just been released from prison, I made a point of befriending him (*That* didn’t end well).

This kind of behaviour made entertaining reading material in the form of my diaries. … However, By 1994, at the age of twenty-four, I was in so much emotional pain that I was almost permanently drunk and/or stoned—day and night. My one goal was the sense of oblivion.

I was also completely obsessed with trying to work out the meaning of life—to one end: would I burn for eternity when I died … or would I not? If I encountered a religion that taught that bad people simply cease to exist after death, I dismissed that religion as harmless and continued my research by cross-questioning proponents of the next religion.

In spring 1995 I behaved so appallingly that I even shocked myself. for the first time in my life it occurred to me to ask myself whether *reacting* to negative circumstances was really the best I could do.

The realisation that I possessed the power to act positively in an undesirable situation propelled me into a period of great joy in my life.

Furthermore, later in 1995 I came across a small book entitled The Prophet  by Kahlil Gibran. Here I read words about the nature of existence that made sense to me for the first time. Instead of the wrath and contradictions that had frightened and confused me in the Bible, I was presented with words of wisdom, of intelligent, practical answers.

I was on the long road to sorting my head out, to being a well-balanced, happy and healthy human being. … But where did the Natasha of my early diaries go?

Self-preservation, self-esteem, and self-awareness are all very well for serenity and contentment. But where’s the fun in that?

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