The Self-Conscious Mind

Have you ever had a thought that was probably ridiculous, but to you it seemed real, it seemed like a possibility? Taking that thought, have you spent hours, maybe even days or weeks, just letting that thought run wild in your mind over and over, creating a whirlwind of anxiety, stress, worry, or whatever other negative emotions might present themselves? Your stomach drops, you begin to obsess over that thought, you begin to think it is reality itself. You have to do whatever you can to distract yourself from it, and, while you may succeed in the short-term, the thought eventually returns to the forefront of your mind, and you once again become consumed by it. It is a mentally taxing and exhausting process, yet difficult to keep at bay.

Have you ever had to make a decision, to formulate a message or a response or the like, and questioned every aspect of it, thinking of every possible outcome you can, arraying them in your mind, allowing them to occupy every inch of space there is inside? Subsequently, have you ever spent hours, days, or weeks trying to come to your final decision, to just make a choice and allow the events that will follow to play out, wasting countless hours that could have been spent actually getting on with life, living it to its full potential, even spending it in the splendour of a well-made decision?

This is what it is like to be self-conscious, to overthink things so much that you lose valuable time doing what you love, being with who you want to be with.

I’m going to say this from the outset: this is what I deal with on, at the very least, a semi-regular basis. I am quite self-conscious, more so when it comes to making decisions I consider to be of great importance, even life-changing, or when talking to people that I really want to get along with and connect more with on a deeper level. I never want to come across as being overbearing, as being annoying, and I never want to put someone off. That is why I sometimes spend more time thinking over what I might say to someone, whether or not I’ll send that message, whether or not I’ll take that opportunity. I consider every possible outcome I can think of, and that can be overwhelming. It is particularly so when the one outcome that always seems to come into focus is the worst possible one, stealing the limelight and forcing you to think about it far more than you would like to. It is hard to shake the thought that this outcome could be the one that transforms into reality. Sometimes I just have to take up the mantra of “no risk, no reward” and just do it, in the hope that one of the good outcomes will manifest.

Being someone who has anxiety, it is tough to deal with these sorts of moments. Times like those mentioned above are typically when the anxiety comes on more, escaping from the depths of the abyss and beginning its takeover of my mind and body. There are several ways that I deal with this: praying, writing, listening to music, watching something (usually an episode of a television series), exercising, cooking, or giving my little dog Ellie lots of hugs, pats, and attention. Sometimes, in the case of something that is really important to me that I really don’t want to mess up, I go see my psychologist and talk it out, because talking to someone about it can really help. It lets you take that swirling thought out of your mind and put it in front of you, so that you can better process it.

I think that being so self-conscious stems from a history of being shy. Throughout my life, I have been quite shy, particularly in social situations where I’m meeting new people. To some degree, I think my self-conscious mind activates in these circumstances, whereby I think about how I might come across to the person I am meeting; I consider the first impression I’m making upon them. This might continue for the duration of the time spent with that person, and in subsequent meetings, depending on how I relate to them and the connection I form with them.

It tends to get more intense if I am meeting or talking to someone I really don’t want to mess up a connection with, particularly when that connection is something I personally see as incredibly special. This is often because these kinds of connections don’t come around often, and so you really have to make sure you treat them well; you have to make sure you nurture them, you allow them to develop, to deepen. But, trust me, it can sometimes be mentally draining to navigate that. Again, this is where the overthinking occurs. You might see or hear or read something and possibilities begin to race through your mind like cars in a drag race; They are hard to ignore, because the noise of each thought fills the expanse of your mind, each racing to the finish line, the forefront of your mind. The irritating thing is that oftentimes the thought that wins that race is the one containing the worst-case scenario. That thought is the one that becomes all-consuming. It’s the one you just cannot seem to shake. It takes a hold on your mind and grips you, giving you the very confronting idea that this possibility will transform into reality, and you will have to live it out not just in the worst parts of your imagination, but also in real life. That’s when your stomach drops, and the anxiety starts to come on. It is one of the worst feelings one can have.

When I find myself in such a circumstance, I do what I can to try to steer my mind away from that possessive thought. But this can be a difficult task. It is not easy to distract yourself from something that is so overwhelmingly, well, bad, particularly when it is running rampant in your mind, causing as much chaos as it can. Some distractions work better than others, but it depends entirely on the individual. As I mentioned before, you could listen to some music (even dance it out; it doesn’t have to be good dancing, but just working off the nervous/anxious/negative energy can be relieving), watch a television show (it might be an episode of a series you’re enjoying, maybe a few episodes) or movie (it could even be one that you’ve seen before, but that is comforting for you; the same applies to the television show), read a book (although this may be somewhat less helpful given it may be hard to focus on what you’re reading when those thoughts are swirling around in your mind), listen to an audiobook or podcast, do some exercise (again, a good workout can be a great way to shake off that negative energy), cook/bake something, or, if you’re religious like me, pray (this can be such a soothing and cathartic experience).

For me, faith has played a truly significant role in helping me through difficult situations, especially when I’m in a mental predicament like those mentioned above throughout this piece. Sometimes when I start overthinking things a lot, and I become consumed by the worst-case scenario thought, I spend time with God, praying, asking Him for guidance, asking Him for help. I ask Him to give me hope, to keep that spark, that flame, alive in my heart. I talk to God and tell Him how I’m feeling, I tell Him all I’m thinking. I tell Him all my greatest hopes and my deepest fears. Sometimes it is difficult to put those thoughts and feelings and hopes into words. But when it is, I think God can still see them, can still understand them. He knows what is in our hearts, even when we cannot find the words to express it. That’s one of the many amazing things about God and about faith. You have this divine, omnipresent Being that is with you no matter where you are, no matter what you are going through. You can talk to Him at any time, anywhere. He will always be there to listen. He will always be there to hear your deepest thoughts, your greatest desires, your tearful pleas, your cries for help, your prayers of gratitude. He is with us at our lowest lows and our highest highs. That is what makes faith so special. Because no matter what struggles you are going through, He will always walk beside you, He will always be there for you, to give you comfort, to give you peace.

Being self-conscious is a difficult challenge to overcome. Being in your own head about everything is a constant struggle, one which takes much subconscious self-restraint, patience, and practice to deal with. It is not something you can just shake off overnight. It takes time to figure out how to combat it, how to restrain it. I think we all struggle with such things to some degree, some of us more than others. Sometimes just talking about it helps us to get out of our own heads and gives us a valuable opportunity to process the thoughts that refuse to be quiet.

For those out there like myself, I know how difficult it can be to manage a self-conscious mind, to overthink so many things. But take comfort in knowing you are not alone, and that there are ways of dealing with it. Each of us are different, but with a listening ear, or indeed the power of faith, we can all get through the battles that take place in our own minds.

Uncovering Christianity: Exploring The Roots Of The West #2 – Reflection, Suffering, And The Power Of Love

Before we begin this week’s piece, I would like to add a little tidbit about it. Prior to last night (Monday night) I had already written a piece for this week and had begun a new one for publication next week. However, when I was writing part of next week’s edition, I found that what I was writing could be its own individual part, and from that paragraph (which is the paragraph directly after the first Bible Verse quoted in this piece), this piece was born. I was originally going to publish the previously written piece last night, but I decided against it, and this came about late last night and into the early hours of this morning. I am not exactly certain what inspired it, what inspired me, but I think it may have been God once again working in His mysterious ways. I think there is a reason God wanted me to write and publish this piece instead, and I hope it will reveal itself soon.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.

Throughout our lives in the Western world, we find ourselves experiencing times of suffering and times of reflection. At times, we are also blessed to feel the power of love in our lives, that remarkable thing that is often beyond description, at least from our human perspective. It is something that has the power to bring people together, to bind one person with another, to change lives, to enflame the heart and soul and fill us with the greatest joy. These three things: suffering, reflection, and love, are essential to humanity, and to a stable society. So, let’s explore them a little more in depth.

When God created man and woman, He created them for each other, so that they may join together as one and create a family (we will look at family in the next edition of this series).

There is a verse from the book of Genesis, 2:24 that says:

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Essentially, when a man finds a wife, he would leave the loving care of his mother and father and become one with the woman he marries. Their hearts and souls would be united. It is quite a beautiful thing to think about, the joining of two hearts and souls as one. It is as if each of us as individuals possesses one half of a heart and one half of a soul, yearning to find their counterparts, their other halves. We go on a journey in our life to find the missing piece of our own internal puzzle, that piece that without which we are lost, not our best selves, not enough. But when we find it, it completes us, enlivening our lives, and a bright light bursts forward from within the deepest confines of our very soul. I like to think that two souls that are meant to be together will attract to each other, almost like they have a magnetism to them, at the perfect time.

While sometimes it may be hard to believe that there is a perfect time, it does indeed exist, just not in the way we think. It is important to understand nothing in this world is perfect. We are all human, we all have flaws. But that should not bring us down. Rather, it should lift us up. We should be grateful for our flaws, because they make us unique. If the world was made up of people who were all the same, this would be a very dull existence. God made us all in His image, but each one of us was made in a different way, with different personalities, features, gifts, ambitions, and, of course, imperfections. But that is where perfection lies, in our imperfections. Our imperfections are what gives us our edge, what allows us to stand out from the crowd.

In reality, there is no perfect time for anything, at least not in the human sense. But God’s timing is perfect. Even though at times it may seem as if God’s timing is wrong, it is always right. That timing may impact us in our deepest, darkest moments, but there is always a reason for it. It may be that we are pursuing a dream of ours, and something comes about that stops it short, putting us on a different path. We may not be pleased upon the initial occurrence of this change in our life, but, in time, we may see just why our path was changed. For it may just be that this new path leads us to something even greater than that which we were pursuing. This new path may lead us to meet someone who changes our life, and who we discover is the piece of the puzzle we have been missing. It is at such a point in our lives that we would look back and reflect on how we came to find this incredible person. And that is where we realise that if it had not been for the sudden and at first unwanted change in the direction of our life, we would have never found that person, that amazing human being that would change our life forever. That right there is God’s timing, and it is truly beyond words.

I often reflect back on my own life thus far these days, particularly on the last two or so years. For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid reader, and that love of books and stories turned into a passion for writing stories of my own. By the time I hit Year 9 in high school, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to turn that passion for writing into a career. After I graduated high school, I decided to take a year to figure out what area of writing I wanted to journey into. I had, for years, dreamed of writing a novel, something I still aspire to do today. But I had developed a penchant for politics, so I decided it might be better to go into journalism. I tossed up journalism and creative writing for a while, until I ended up deciding to study both. In the first half of 2019, my life was nothing short of a living nightmare. Dealing with the harsh return of my anxiety, I could not cope with study just yet, so I delayed from March to May. It took me some time, but I finally decided to seek help, and with the aid of a counsellor I got better. After a few more promising months, an assessment led to increased stress, and once again to increased anxiety. After another month or so, it had receded somewhat, only to be brought back on in the first half of 2020. After the passing of my pop, and the period of isolation that followed upon the arrival of COVID-19, I was in a pretty bad way again. Even after seeing a doctor, being put on medication, and starting psychology, it was still months before I really felt like I was back to myself.

It was not until about mid-September 2020 that I felt alive again. It was around this time that I became acquainted with someone new and like-minded, finding myself enthralled at this connection. Over the months to come, I learnt more that seemed too good to be true. It was either one of the most astounding coincidences, or God’s timing. I truly believe it was the latter. And I thank God for it, because without it, I would not have been able to see why I needed to go through all the pain and suffering I endured. I would not have been able to see why things happened the way they did. And I would not have found myself walking a different path that would truly change my life. If it were not for God’s timing, and the connection He brought into my life, I would not be where I am today. I would not be writing this. I have nothing but gratitude and awe for what God brought into my life.

See, that is how deep God’s love is for us. Yes, we go through times of hardship, times of great pain and suffering, but so did Jesus. Jesus, in the ultimate act of sacrifice and love, equal only to that of God the Father’s act of sacrifice and love (giving His Only Son so that we may have eternal life), went to His death upon the Cross, so that we would be saved from sin and be able to spend eternal life in paradise in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus suffered greatly in the lead up to His crucifixion, but He did so out of love for us. God the Father sent His Only Son down to Earth to live amongst us and die upon the Cross out of love for His people.

When we suffer, we may not know why this is happening to us at the time. But, in time, the reason for our suffering will reveal itself to us. Indeed, pain lets us know that we are human. Without it, we would be unable to measure the goodness, the happiness in our lives. We cannot merely do away with pain for the sake of pursuing some utopia in our lives with only the good. If we were to do that, we would eventually lose sight of what is good and what is not. And, most tragically of all, we would struggle to comprehend love.

Pain is a necessary part of life. But it does not have to be a burden. Rather, it is a learning curve, albeit we often do not realise this until some time later. From pain comes love, from darkness comes light. Within my life, I have found a ray of light that has guided me out of the dark abyss I was lost in for the greater part of two years. I hope that each and every one of you who reads this will also find that light in your lives if you have not already. No matter what you are going through, trust in God and He will guide you through it. For God Himself is love, He is light, and He is the way.

To finish, I would like to share (although I have done so before in a different piece) my favourite Bible Verse, one that I keep close to my heart each and every day of my life:

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:6-8, 13

This is the second Part of a Series entitled Uncovering Christianity: Exploring the Roots of the West. This series explores the values and ideas originating from Christianity, looking back at Biblical times, and relating them to the modern world. There are central themes to each piece in this series, with key messages throughout to guide you in your own life. The series also looks at some of the threats to the roots of Western Civilization and discusses what can be done to placate them and protect the foundation of society. Keep an eye out for new series pieces each week.

The Media Code: The Case For Independent Media

There are times in life when you really wonder what someone was thinking. You wonder what was going through their heads when they did something. The Australian Government’s approach to Big Tech is one such time. What the Government have done probably the worst path they could have taken. It is only going to end in the devastation of the media landscape in Australia. But they do not seem to care. In fact, they are doubling down, calling Facebook’s response “heavy-handed”. Well, they should have expected it to be as such. After all, they cannot say they were not warned. Facebook told them this would happen if they passed this absolute sham of a law. Yet they did it anyway (at least, in the House of Reps. It has not passed the Senate yet, although it is likely to occur.

Now usually when it comes to articles I try to take an objective approach with my own thoughts scattered in between. This time I’m not going to hold back. I’m passionate about writing, I’m passionate about what I do, and what the Government has done affects my work. I, like many other independent Australian bloggers and media, have been caught in the crossfire of a war the Australian Government is waging on Big Tech, particularly Facebook. And I am not happy about it.

But first, an explainer of how we got here. I’m going to try to explain what’s happened to the best of my ability. Essentially, it started with News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch, becoming upset about losing ad revenue to Facebook because more people were reading their media outlets’ articles through Facebook. Keep in mind, News Corp (which comprises outlets such as The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun, The Courier Mail, news.com.au, Sky News Australia, etc.) were choosing to use Facebook to get their articles out there for more people to see and click on. Let me emphasise this again: they chose to use Facebook. They did not have to use it. They were not forced to use it. They made a conscious decision, and it ended up causing them to lose ad revenue. That was their own fault. If they wanted to fix the problem, they should have created their own ad tech and run their articles using it. But instead, they went and complained to the Government. And the Government decided to take action.

The Government decided that the best course of action would be to draft a piece of legislation, called the Media Code, to get tech companies like Google and Facebook to pay outlets like News Corp for using their content. They brought in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), who recommended it be a voluntary process. But when Big Tech basically refused to budge, as they were entitled to do, the Government took it a step further, and passed the law in the House of Reps, essentially making it mandatory that these companies strike a deal with Australian media outlets. This happened on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning chaos the fallout ensued. Google decided to strike up a deal with News Corp and pay them for the use of their content. Now Google only did this because it is expedient to them. They have plans to build a massive media empire that will essentially wipe out Australian media. The deal was praised by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who thanked Google while scolding Facebook. What Frydenberg and most other politicians do not realise is that this is a deal with the devil. It may look good now, but in the long-term, it will likely create even bigger problems. The government is, in simple terms, out of their depth.

But Facebook were not going to play the way the Australian Government wanted them to, and rightly so. Now let me make something very clear; I’m not defending Big Tech. I criticize them regularly, and a lot of the stuff they do is utterly reprehensible. What Facebook chose to do was in the same vein, but it’s not on them. This one is on the Australian Government. Facebook chose to ban the sharing of all Australian media on their platform. That means you can no longer share articles from media outlets including The Australian, news.com.au, The Daily Telegraph, Sky News Australia, 7 News, 9 News, Network 10, the ABC, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian Australia, The Courier Mail, etc.. Essentially, if it’s an Australian media outlet, it’s not on Facebook. But this doesn’t stop at just the big well-known media of Australia. No, it goes further. That’s where people like me come in.

When this all happened on Thursday, I didn’t really think much of it at first. All that occurred to me was that I wouldn’t be able to share news articles on Facebook anymore, which wasn’t exactly an issue for me considering the only things I share on Facebook are of a personal nature, or links to my blog posts each time I publish a new one. But in discussion with people on Twitter about the matter at hand, and in learning more about it, it suddenly occurred to me that this may actually affect me directly. So, I navigated to my personal Facebook page, and discovered that all my posts with links to my blog articles had disappeared. It then dawned on me that I wasn’t going to be able to share links to my blog on Facebook anymore.

See, this Facebook media ban doesn’t just affect your standard media. It also hits small independent journalists and bloggers like me. When giants like the Government and Big Tech are fighting against each other, we get caught in the crossfire, and we pay the highest price. We don’t have the kind of money or resources that these big media outlets have. They can keep going and maintain their audience easily. But for the little guys, we have to find new avenues of building an audience. Usually, we would rely on social media to assist us in doing this. For me personally, a decent portion of my audience came from Facebook. So, I suppose you could say that this was both irritating and stressful. Allow me to give you a bit of insight into how I get my content out there.

When I write an article and subsequently publish it on my blog, the next step is getting it circulating. The first people to be notified of publication are those subscribed to the blog by email. An email notification containing a link to the newly published article is sent to the email address they used to follow the blog. Following this, I copy the link to the article and post it on Facebook and Twitter with a small explainer as to the content of the articles. People can then click on the link which will take them directly to the article. By pursuing all of these avenues, I am able to widen my reach and expand the potential audience. But when one of those avenues is cut off, as it is now thanks to Facebook’s Australian media ban, I lose a way of getting my articles out there, and the potential audience decreases. In an age of instant gratification, people want to be able to click a link and be taken to its webpage straight away. So, when a social media platform stops people like me, small independent bloggers/journalists, from sharing links to our content, it creates a significant problem for us.

And that brings me back to where the blame lies for this whole fiasco. As I said before, I’m not defending Facebook, but they are not to blame for this. They provided fair warning, and it is their platform. Media chose to use it to widen their reach, then realised it was costing them money and demanded the platform, the same platform they had chosen to join and share their content on, pay them. Facebook was never going to do that. But the Australian Government thought they could force them to. And boy were they wrong.

Yes, the blame for this whole thing lies with the Australian Government. They did the wrong thing. In fact, what they did was utterly reckless. They chose to try to enact a new Australian law on US tech companies. In some sense, it is just plain absurd. The Australian Government have no jurisdiction over US tech companies operating out of Silicon Valley, California. They can pass a media law all they like, but Facebook do not have to abide by it. Indeed, Google do not have to abide by it either. These tech companies know this. So, Facebook knows that the economic and political pressure imposed upon Australia by them blocking their service might just result in the Australian Government backing down. To be quite honest, the Government should back down. Even though Morrison, Frydenberg and co are determined to stand their ground, even going so far as to try to bring the leaders of India and France on board with this, I hope for the sake of independent media in this country that they tear up that legislation and reverse what they have done.

Instead of trying to attack Big Tech directly, the Australian Government should lean on their US counterparts. They should request that the US Government enforce Section 230, antitrust law, and monopoly law. Just a quick rundown of these three things for those who are not familiar. Section 230 of the US Communications Act basically grants Big Tech companies immunity from liability for anything anyone publishes on their platforms. It also allows these platforms to moderate and/or remove third-party material they deem to be either obscene or offensive, as long as this is done in good faith. Antitrust law is a collection of statutes both on federal and state government levels that regulate the conduct of businesses in order to protect consumers from predatory business practices and to ensure fair competition. Monopoly law falls into these antitrust laws, in which monopolies are illegal if they are established or maintained through improper conduct, including predatory and/or exclusionary actions. This is what is referred to as anticompetitive monopolization. If the Australian Government were to lean on the US Government to enforce these laws, then the problem that is Big Tech can be solved. After all, these are US tech companies, and they are beholden to United States law.

But the Australian media are not exempt from criticism here. After all, they did ask for this. They were cheering on the Government for going down this route and threatening to enact a Media Code. Why? Because the media knew this would likely take out small independent journalists/bloggers, people like me, who provide competition for them. They wanted to reduce competition, and what better way to do this than take it out with the help of the Government. What they didn’t count on was Facebook taking them out. Now they are complaining about it, upset with Facebook’s actions. Whether or not they have learnt their lesson is questionable. Although it seems apparent that they haven’t, and they likely won’t. That sort of ignorance is going to tear apart the Australian media industry.

So yeah, I’m not exactly happy with what’s happened. I can’t share any of my articles on Facebook now, be they from my own blog, or from other publications that I have had articles published in (ie. The Spectator Australia and The Good Sauce). I’m not going to let that stop me from writing and publishing articles. But I am asking everyone who reads this blog to please subscribe via email. It is completely free. All you need to do is scroll to the bottom of the page, enter your email in the box, and click “follow”. It’s easy and takes no more than ten seconds to do. After you subscribe, you will receive an email notification whenever a new article goes live. This is how we fend off the fallout of this war between the Government and Facebook.

This is a battle between giants. It never should have happened this way, but it did. People like me got caught in the crossfire, and now we have to save ourselves while big media corporations continue forth with all the money and resources they have at their disposal. We will fight on. I will fight on. But it is important that everyone understands exactly what is going on here. Because far too many people are blaming Facebook and saying the Government’s actions were right. They were not. Most of the media will not understand this because they are the ones who complained to the Government in the first place and set of a chain of events that led to this chaos. What the Government did was wrong. What Facebook did was justifiable and unsurprising. Imagine if you ran a platform that you were making money from which provided everyone with the opportunity to publish and promote themselves and their work. Then those same people who choose to use your platform demand you pay them because they choose to publish their content on your platform. You can understand how ridiculous that is. As I said, I’m not defending Facebook, but I think many would do the same thing they did in the circumstances. If the Government had any sense, they would not continue down this path. Instead, they must secure the market, break up the monopolies that have formed, and put pressure on the US Government to prosecute antitrust laws, so that competition in the market can flourish. The free market is always the best way forward.

I will continue to write and publish articles here, as well as occasionally for The Spectator and more often for The Good Sauce (which you can find at goodsauce.news, and excellent

independent Conservative media outlet with brilliant writers and political/social commentators). Please subscribe via email, share the blog around in your own circles, and if you’re feeling generous, you can support my work at my Ko-Fi page, which I’m linking here: https://ko-fi.com/joelagius1. Any funding that comes from that will go into widening the reach of the blog and expanding it into much more. This blog has been one of the best things I have ever done, and I want to do everything I can to fuel it further. The war between the Australian Government and Facebook may persist, but so will I. Independent media needs a buildup of support now more than ever. So please make sure to keep coming back, keep reading what myself and other independent journalists and bloggers write, keep supporting us. We do what we do to keep you informed, and sometimes to inspire or even entertain. And if you’re a young writer like myself, I encourage you to get writing (or typing) and get your voice out there. Don’t let this latest saga stop you from doing so. We need more young writers in the world.

Thanks all for the ongoing support and God Bless.

Music: The Soundtrack To Our Lives

Music is an incredible thing. It is much more than just sound and rhythm. It is something that speaks to us, makes us feel. It brings out all sorts of emotions. What emotions arise of course depend on the type of music we choose to listen to. Indeed, we may select songs that we can connect with at certain times in our lives. When we’re feeling sad, we might listen to a ballad of heartache or despair. When we’re happy, we might choose an upbeat pop song or the like. When we’re feeling energetic, we might go for a song with a strong beat, something that pumps us up. And then there are times when we might just play any song we feel like to accompany something that we are undertaking (I say this as I listen to a whole range of songs while I write this piece). Music is probably one of the most powerful things in existence, and we are truly lucky to have it. So, I thought it was past time I wrote a piece on it. Let’s explore the power and impact of music a little more.

Music brings people together. A shared love of music can truly unite people, no matter their differences. They could be from different backgrounds, different nations, or of different beliefs and values. But despite the opposition they may hold to each other in the day-to-day affairs of the world, music can bring them together, even if just for a fleeting moment. Some may also find other like-minded people with a similar taste in music, something that no doubt they will be able to bond over. Even if you don’t share the same musical taste, you could still find yourselves moving along to a good beat, a good rhythm. There are a whole range of examples where music has united people as one. Some memorable ones, some of which overlap with the next point on the healing power of music, include charity music events like Sound Relief (for those affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires), America: A Tribute To Heroes (9/11 Memorial Concert), Live Aid (for those starving in Africa), and more recently One Love Manchester (for the victims of the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena) and Sound Relief 2020 (for those affected by the 2020 Australian bushfires). All these events brought people together under the unifying banner of music to help those who had been affected by tragedy, disparity, and heartache. The unity seen in these cases was phenomenal. Despite their everyday differences, millions of people rallied together around good causes to help those in need. It just shows the power music has in our world.

That brings us to the healing power of music. Now this is really something. There are times in our lives when each of us face trials and tribulations. We may be struggling mentally; we may be physically hurt. We may be experiencing a loss, heartache, loneliness, anxiety, depression, illness, pain or suffering of any kind. We may be facing down something of disastrous proportions. We may be dealing with something that is overwhelming to us. We may even be connecting with the pain and suffering of someone else in our lives. During these times, things can get dark. It might feel as if storm clouds are constantly sitting right above you, keeping you on edge, unable to focus, unable to contend with the demons you face, unable to heal. Yet oftentimes music can cut through, even if only for a moment. Music can give us that desperately needed relief we crave. Particularly in times of crisis, it can be somewhat cathartic. Throughout 2020, I think many of us would have listened to a lot more music than we might usually do. Being subjected to lockdowns and isolation, music may have been our only friend at times. Indeed, it may have helped us get through these difficult times. Sometimes when we are at our lowest, music can pick us up, even just a little for a few moments.  I know for me personally, music has helped me to get through some of the hardest times in my life. It has given me an escape, something that I’ve needed just for a little while, when I’ve been at my lowest, and on occasions where I’ve found myself experiencing a little more anxiety than I would like (sure I’d love none at all, but it lets me know I’m human). I know that even in our darkest hours, when we face the worst, music allows us to just have on moment away from it all.

To demonstrate this, I would like to detail an experience my family had last year. Just before my Pop passed away just over a year ago now, on his last night on this Earth before he left us to go up to Heaven, his kids, obviously all adults now, were gathered in his hospital room keeping him company as he slept. Knowing he was unlikely to make it through the night, they decided to play his favourite song for him one last time. So they put on The Gambler by the late Kenny Rogers, sat with Pop, and listened. In that moment, despite the sadness they all felt knowing their father would only be with them for a little while longer, they found some sense of comfort in the music, in this song that Pop loved so much. Whenever I hear that song now, I think of Pop, I think of that night, his final night here on Earth, with his family surrounding him, I think of the memories we had, and I remember his voice, singing that song he always loved to hear.

And that brings me to my third and what I think will be my final point in this piece on music: memories and emotions. I have decided to combine these two because I think they are linked in nature. Memories evoke emotions. Both are linked directly with music. Sometimes a song will bring forth a memory, or even a range of memories, which in turn bring forth a wave of emotions. Depending on the song, we may find ourselves remembering a moment in which we experienced great joy and happiness, or maybe one where we felt excited. We might recall a memory where we felt sad, or one where we felt nervous. Our minds may then go deeper, remembering certain people, places, and events that occurred. We might also associate a song with a person we know. A song may remind us of a certain person in our life and may bring a smile to our face when we hear it and think of them. As I mentioned before, whenever I hear The Gambler, I think of my Pop. And whilst there is a little sadness still there knowing he is no longer with us here, I still find the hint of a smile showing up on my face, knowing he is looking down on me smiling and singing along. And so I sing along too, knowing he is with me in my heart. Sometimes when I hear different songs I think of moments from my childhood, from my time at high school, from times I have spent with family and friends, and even from times I have spent by myself. Just to give another example, whenever I listen to songs that I would listen to while studying, doing schoolwork in the mornings before school, walking up to the bus stop in my senior years, walking home, and songs I would listen to on the bus, I remember those times like they happened yesterday. Memory is an incredible thing, and music is a powerful trigger for it.

The power of music is truly something special. It brings people together. It motivates us. It provides comfort and healing to our lives. It evokes memories and emotions within us. We often find songs that have great meaning to us. Some of us may even write and create our own (which can be very therapeutic). To some degree, music is like a universal language of the world. No matter who we are, where we’re from, what we do, or where we are at in our lives, music persists and unites. It is always there with us on the journey we call life, and we are incredibly lucky to have it by our side.

2020: A Year To Remember

2020 has been a very challenging year for most of us. I think we can all agree it has really left its mark on us all to varying degrees. We have faced many trials and tribulations. The world has become a different place in the era of COVID-19. Over the course of the year, in particular over the last few weeks, I have heard a fair few people say that 2020 is a year to forget, that we should just write it off and hope 2021 is better. But I have to disagree with this sentiment. I think 2020 is probably one of the years we must remember most. Yes, it has been nothing short of a nightmare at times, but it taught us many valuable lessons that we should carry forward into the rest of our lives on this Earth. Each year I usually do a wrap up of the year, be it personal or otherwise. This year I will be combining the two and going over some of the lessons I have learnt that I think we can all take heed of in our own lives.

2020 started with fire. The fires that ravaged Australia left us all living alongside a haze of smoke that seemed as if it would never dissipate. For me personally, the fires led to my Pop coming to stay with us for a couple of weeks. During this time, we all spent some quality time together, watching shows, playing pool at my uncle’s place, and having many a memorable conversation. Not long after he returned home to the South Coast, Pop had a fall and ended up in hospital. Just a few weeks later, at the end of January, he tragically passed away. I was there in the last couple of days of his life. Seeing him as he was in his last days, it really impacted me. It had a major effect on me on those days, and the days that came after his passing. As I have mentioned before, I don’t think I realised just how much of an impact it had on me, particularly from a mental standpoint, until a few months later. But that is for the next lesson. This tragic event in my life, despite its harshness, taught me a truly valuable lesson that I will remember as I continue forth in my life: We should always value the time we have with our family, friends and loved ones. Life changes fast, and so we should always make the most of every moment we have with the people we care about. Because we really don’t know when we’ll be spending our last moment with them. Make good memories with them that you will always remember fondly. Those memories can be such an incredible source of comfort in times of sorrow. I sometimes find myself thinking about my Pop, wishing he was still with us to celebrate special occasions, to talk to. But I just remember the memories we made, and I am so ever grateful for them.

This year has been a real test for our mental wellbeing. COVID-19 has led to lockdowns and isolation. As human beings, we are social creatures, so isolation can have a significant impact on our mental health considering we do not have those physical, face to face connections that we so enjoy. Many of us have experienced life-changing circumstances throughout this year. Most of us have probably been on a mental rollercoaster ride, having to deal with far too many ups and downs for one year. So, the next lesson 2020 has taught us is this: We must always take care of ourselves. This year in particular has reflected the importance of looking after our mental health. For me, that meant getting help when I was in a pretty bad way mentally. About a week or two into May, my anxiety had built up again, and had led to a sense of depression because of how anxious I was. As I’ve explained in a previous article, I ended up consulting a GP and then starting sessions with a psychologist. While I began the process of recovery and figuring out ways of managing the anxiety in particular, I decided it would be best for me to take another three months off from university (that’s one study period for me). So, my three-month break that had started after the conclusion of a study period in February turned into a six-month sabbatical. This turned out to be a necessity. If I had kept studying while I was trying to get better, I don’t think I would have truly been able to. I needed to have my mind focused entirely on that recovery at the time. I knew this would mean my studies would take a bit longer to complete, but I needed to put my mental health first and get my head right before I could continue. It was a difficult decision, but it was the right one. To anyone who is struggling mentally, I would encourage you to take heed of this particular lesson that 2020 has taught us. Look after yourself. Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you can maintain good mental wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone, to get help. Because that can make all the difference.

2020 has also taught us that we cannot take things for granted, especially our freedom. If the age of COVID-19 has taught us anything it is this. Having endured lockdowns and restrictions on our lives that have changed them, inducing fear in the population, we must all awake to the reality that freedom is never a given. Our movement has been limited. Who we are permitted to see has been limited. What we are permitted to do has been limited. Many of us have allowed politicians to control almost every aspect of our lives. We took our freedoms for granted, and those in power took advantage of that. So, if we are to learn one thing from the harsh reality we have faced and continue to face, it is this: we must never take such a thing as freedom as a given. We must recognize that the freedoms that we should value so much are easily able to be stripped from us if we do not defend them from power-hungry, controlling individuals who will seize any opportunity they can to take more power than is given them. COVID-19 has given them the excuse they needed to take power under the guise of keeping us all safe. We have been told that life will never really go back to what it was before the virus. While it is easier to roll over and accept this, it is much more beneficial in the long-term to push back and ensure that we can live as free a life as possible.

Now to probably the most valuable lesson I have learnt this year: In the darkest times, an unexpected ray of light can enter your life, changing it for the better. 2020 has been especially dark for me, as I’m sure it has for many. Looking back, that darkness really started to consume me from May, putting me in a position where I needed to get help. But even after getting help, there was still darkness. There were still times when I wondered if things would ever really get a lot better. I still wasn’t really motivated. I still struggled to work up the resolve to get things done all the time. I would still put things off, telling myself they could wait until later. I still had periods of anxiety, albeit more manageable than they were before, but I suppose I felt as if I wasn’t really where I wanted to be just yet. In fact, that didn’t happen until later in the year.

In mid-September, that unexpected ray of light shone through the darkness surrounding me, guiding me out of it. My life changed. I became more motivated. I started writing again. I worked ahead in my university studies. I got back into an exercise regimen. I felt happier. All of these things have continued from that point forward to this day, and I am so incredibly grateful for that ray of light. As I’ve said before, sometimes the most incredible people come into your life when you least expect it, their impact profound. This is the very reason I cannot just write off 2020. Because even though 2020 has been one of the most taxing years, it has brought me some of the greatest things in my life. It is those amazing connections in life that turn up when you least expect it that make the biggest differences, the greatest of impacts.

2020 has been a wild ride, but it has been a necessary and meaningful one. Sure, there has been a lot of bad news this year, and sometimes it is difficult to see past that, to find the good in the world. But we cannot write off this year. We cannot just forget it. 2020 has brought with it important life lessons that are of great value to all of us moving forward. If anything, I feel like this year has helped me to grow significantly as a person, and to become a better version of myself. I am grateful for all that this year has taught me and brought me, and I’m looking forward to growing even more in 2021.

As I round this out, I would just like to thank everyone who has followed along on this blog over the past year. I appreciate all the support, and I hope you have all enjoyed what I’ve been publishing. This is my last one for this year. More to come in 2021.

A Happy New Year to all of you.