Posts Tagged ‘emotional intelligence’

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last Christmas.

December 15, 2012

I remember when I started this blog that I would write quite lengthy, detailed posts about my personal life and about all of my feelings and experiences. This blog has been around for over 3 years and during that time my life has transformed in a lot of ways: I did a postgrad, started working in jobs I actually wanted, learned to drive and bought a car, entered a long-term relationship, moved to London and supported myself, moved in with my boyfriend… I made the decision not to talk about my relationship in too much detail because I feel that my private life is just for me and for Toby – but he informs everything I do now and is such a big part of me that every post on here, more or less, is influenced by him or concerns him to some degree.

Although I am certainly more mature and guarded about what I choose to post on the internet, sometimes I miss the honesty and openness with which I used to post. Sometimes, when I have dilemmas in my life, I find myself typing my question into Google in search of some advice. And sometimes I find some decent food for thought, whereas other times there’s just nothing sensible or nothing that quite touches the nature of what I am going through. But on those occasions where I do find something that can help me, through offering a kindred voice or shedding an alternative perspective on a situation, it’s really valuable. And so I have decided that in this post, I am going to be honest and talk about what is on my mind, in the hope that one day someone else might find my post and it might help them to know that they are not alone.

Yesterday I was speaking to my mother on the phone and apropos of nothing, she asked me that when I am in Bristol for Christmas, that I don’t voluntarily reveal the fact that I am gay and in a healthy, happy long-term relationship with my partner. The reason for this is that my uncle and aunt are coming up from Melbourne for the holiday to visit my grandmother. My cousin (my uncle and aunt’s daughter) has been living in Bristol with my grandmother for the past six months, and during this time she has demonstrated that she has grown up a lot from the irksome child and teenager that she was when I had previously met her. And yet the other day, my mother was having a conversation with her and my grandmother, and my cousin asks “how is Alan getting on with his flatmate?” Toby is my boyfriend, my lover, my partner with whom I share a flat – but he is so much more than my “flatmate” that I paused a little bit – because surely this is obvious, and my cousin (whose recent displays of emotional intelligence lead me to believe that she would have caught onto this) must know that Toby is my boyfriend. My mum then told me that my cousin has revealed in the past that my uncle (who has hitherto always been nice to me) “hates certain celebrity chefs because they are gay” apparently. And so, my mother has asked me not to volunteer any information about Toby to “keep the peace on Christmas Day” and to keep my grandmother happy, because otherwise relatives’ reactions “may cause a scene and my grandmother will get upset.”

What the fuck.

I am not at all angry at my mother for wanting a peaceful Christmas – it’s perfectly understandable. My mother’s side of the family is Italian (and therefore Catholic, although I wouldn’t describe them as religious with the exception of my grandmother who goes to church twice a week – but only since my grandfather passed away 5 years ago). But I have introduced Toby to my father (who has made crass comments about gay people in the past but has never been anything but welcoming of Toby and supportive of me in my relationship – I feel that his macho posturing isn’t really indicative of his views, which annoys me somewhat – why does he even need to act a certain way therefore? But I appreciate the fact that he is accepting of me) and everything has been fine – Toby has never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome in my parents’ home. My grandmother has met Toby a few times now and they get on ok too – neither is my grandmother stupid; she knows who he is to me, even if she doesn’t say it out loud. But here lies the crux of the problem – everybody knows, but nobody wants to talk about it. Everybody is actually fine with my sexuality, but everybody seems to think that they are the only “enlightened one” and that nobody else approves. So it remains a big open secret. Which to me is partly laughable, but also quite painful because I have absolutely no shame in having found a man that I love with all my heart, and having established a strong and secure relationship with him. Shouldn’t this be something that could be appreciated, if it’s too much to ask for it to be celebrated? Why do I have to keep quiet about the most positive (out of a range of very positive things in my life) part of who I am today?

I have always been the Beyoncé of the family, if you will. (Prepare for me to toot my own horn in the next couple of sentences.) Not only because I’m musically talented, but I am the only person on my mother’s side of the family to go to university, let alone to the University of Oxford and then on to achieve a postgraduate qualification afterwards. I am the only one who has successfully moved out of Bristol. I’m the slimmest and most fashionable out of me and my cousins. I have an interesting job which pays a decent wage (but more about that in another post, as I have an announcement to make!). I am 27 years old and I have done pretty well so far (with some wobbles along the way – but hey, that’s life right?). With all of this hard work (which was for myself, but it didn’t hurt that it pleased others also), it would appear that the fact that I am gay, that I happen to be attracted to men, and that I have now built a life for myself with another man whom I love deeply, resets everything. I will never be good enough, and no matter what I did or what I achieve in the future, I never had a chance at being “good enough” because of my sexuality, which is something I cannot control. I love being gay, I love Toby, I am very happy with my life and with myself (apart from the fact that I ought to quit smoking and that next year I am going to lose weight – but there’s a forthcoming post for that too because my musical goals and my aesthetic aims are going hand in hand in 2013).  And I can’t talk about any of it, because other people may react to it, and it may upset someone else. Well, it upsets me! What about that?

Back to the phone call. So my mother asked this favour of me. I fell silent, and I said that I didn’t know if I could do that – I certainly couldn’t promise anything. I know that she understands, and I know that she didn’t like asking, and I am not angry at her. But I am angry at my family because I am never going to be good enough, and I am not able to relax and completely be myself. I told my mother that I didn’t understand why I should compromise myself. It’s not natural for one to shout their gayness or their homosexual monogamous relationship upon entering a room – this is not my intention. But I am 27 years old, and I am not afraid of them anymore – I have built my own life, and at the end of the day, I don’t live in Bristol and I don’t need the validation of my family. It’s nice if I could feel comfortable with them – but if that’s not going to be a possibility, c’est la vie. I will choose Toby over them, if it has to come to it. I am sad that it might have to come to that – but maybe we can’t have everything. I have a lot, and that’s enough. But I refuse to be intimidated by small-minded, low-aspiring people. I don’t even really know if they are small-minded – this is all just rumour and myth. But after all – I’d better not say anything, just in case.

I want everyone to have a lovely Christmas day. I want Toby to feel welcome when he comes to Bristol, and the fact that he does perplexes me even more in light of this request. I don’t want my grandmother to be upset, and I don’t want anybody to cause a scene. But it’s not my fault if they cause a scene because of their own prejudice, surely? I don’t understand why I have to conceal, compromise and sacrifice my identity in the presence of people whom I see only occasionally, and who are my frickin’ family, so as not to rock a phantom boat. Am I being unreasonable? Because perhaps it’s not such a big thing to ask, for one day. But then, to me, it’s not really about one family day – it’s about me being denied the ability to openly be myself, to celebrate all of the things I have achieved and the precious gift of Toby’s presence in my life. He is wonderful, and I don’t see why I have to downplay this. I’m not going to shout it from the rooftops (though sometimes I want to! 🙂 ) because that would be unnatural, but neither am I going to lie about it because that is no more natural either.

This is bringing me to the sad conclusion that, whether or not a scene occurs, I feel like this will be my last Christmas in Bristol with my family, for at least a while. I don’t want to hurt my family by not celebrating with them, but at the same time I am an adult now, with the right to live my own life. (I can’t lie – it will be nice to actually not do a big travelling jaunt for one year.) I’m old enough to make my own decisions and to choose to stand my ground and enjoy my life in my own home. I have proven my worth time and again, and I now have the flat, the job, the relationship – the evidence to show for it. It’s not my fault that my family members may be insecure or jealous, and I don’t see why I should compromise myself to appease any inadequacies they may or may not feel. It’s not my problem. If I cannot be myself on Christmas day, then maybe next year it has finally come to the point where I’ve got to start making my own traditions, and if it means being by myself then hey – I’ll do it. I would never begrudge Toby going to spend time with his family, and maybe I would be able to join them instead. I don’t know – this whole situation has thrown me into a realm of “I don’t know”. What I do know is that I won’t lie, I won’t hide, and I won’t be ashamed. I am strong enough and secure enough to stand alone – I’d rather not have to, but if that’s the way it has to be then so be it. A part of me hopes I’ll be pleasantly surprised this Christmas and all these worries and postulations will count for nothing. I really don’t know what will happen – I am confident that I feel the right way about the situation, but I hope that I will have the grace and the presence of mind to react correctly and in a dignified manner to whatever situation arises.

I’ll let you know.

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sensitivity.

May 27, 2012

I find that as I’m getting older, rather than becoming more blasé and desensitised to things, significant and insignificant events alike have a deeper emotional resonance. As a teenager, I watched endless horror films without ever getting scared (the very occasional example aside); I sped through various important academic achievements and educational landmarks without batting an eyelid or appreciating the gravity of them (even when everyone around me was congratulating me and making a really big deal); I would visit new places without often taking in what surrounded me beyond a cursory acknowledgement. How could I be more jaded in my adolescence than I am now? Going to a wedding or even the graduation of my students brings a lump to my throat; watching a romantic drama or action extravaganza that is meant to be a disposable way of passing a couple of hours can have unexpected meaning that makes me stop and really contemplate. I’ve always been in touch with my emotions and music & lyrics have always been a great emotional conduit for me (which makes sense), but lately it feels like I have more of them!

Is it because, as a fully-fledged adult, I’m more aware of my own mortality and my lack of invincibility? I don’t ever remember feeling “invincible” per se… Am I just more mature and thus more able to appreciate and find the value in art, nature, landmarks (both literal and figurative) and emotions?  Am I just more easily emotionally manipulated the longer I’m exposed to mainstream entertainment? Is my resilience being worn down, or is my emotional intelligence developing? I sincerely hope it’s the latter! 

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illusions.

January 10, 2010

I was on the way home from work at the hospital on Friday afternoon and it began to occur to me while I was sat on the bus, for no particular reason, that just as we all want different things that can help us on our journey to happiness, so we’re all coming from different places with different perspectives. I thought back to Monday night and Tuesday morning, when I’d spent the night at Mike’s place, and playing games with his son Billy.  He messed about with his food, he splashed Mike while he was having a bath, he was bashing a toy meerkat on the floor the next morning looking for coconuts.  He’s three years old, and he’s a bright kid, but he’s a child that is almost totally carefree.  And why shouldn’t he be?  That’s one of the luxuries of being so young, that we don’t realise is a luxury until it’s passed us by.

Does that make him “immature”? In a way, yes – but with none of the bad connotations that the word usually carries.  He’s a child, he’s got a lot of growing up to do, experiencing of the world and everything that entails.  So as a child, we can’t blame him for not understanding the complexity of relationships, people, and a hundred other things that fall under the umbrella of “life”.  But just because he’s a child, that gives him a get-out clause that we don’t afford other people whom we presume should know better.  So I was sat on the bus, wondering if maturity and immaturity is just an illusion? Is it a concept that we’ve invented to fuel our own feelings of superiority and comfort us when we’re feeling insecure?

I know that I’m certainly guilty of this.  Through the years, many many people (parents, teachers, friends, colleagues) have told me that I am “mature for my age”, “wise beyond my years” and so on and so forth.  I appreciate the compliment, but it’s meant that sometimes I’ve looked at people my age, or people whom I’ve just thought should know better than to behave in the way in which they’re behaving, and the first thing to my mind is “they’re immature”.  Is that really just code for “oh, I am better than them”?  To me, it seems to be a way of dressing up a superiority complex.  Looking at it now, I think that when we see people as “immature”, it’s not because they’re mentally or emotionally stunted – or at least, it’s not their fault.  They just have a different viewpoint of life / whatever the issue or context is, because they’ve been through different things or they’ve been raised a certain way, that they approach the complexities from a different angle.  I’m sure that I’m not the deepest person around, and that some people think I am shallow. I like to think I am not, but then who likes to think of themselves as shallow? 😉  I like to think I’m mature, but then who likes to think of themselves as immature?

So I am trying to restrain myself from automatically judging people as “immature”. Yes, I may disagree with the way they express themselves in connection with certain situations, and I might think that if it were me, I would do things differently, approach the situation differently, or have a more nuanced viewpoint.  But we’re all learning, and maybe instead of judging someone else, I should learn to take a step back and see things the way they do.  Sometimes I think too much, and perhaps simplicity is better.  Mike and I did say sometimes that it would be nice to just be able to switch your brain off  and not overthink things – I’m certainly guilty of at times taking things too seriously.  And perhaps, sometimes part of ‘maturity’ (whether it exists or not) is letting loose and having fun.  I honestly believe more and more as I get older that levity and laughter is vital for sanity.

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s.t.f.u.

September 26, 2009

Sorry I haven’t been around that much that past few days; I’ve been busy settling into my course at uni and everything that goes along with that.  I am pretty pleased (apart from the fact I was drunk on Thursday night before 7pm) with the content of the course, as it’s very inspiring and I feel that this might just be the right thing for me.  I can make a difference to young people in a realistic way – even though it’s been made clear that sometimes you can only do so much, I like to believe that even a little can be enough.  We’ll see – I have my first visit to a school on Thursday morning (Mike is giving me a lift) to help some Year 10s look through prospectuses… hopefully my optimism will hold through that! I’m sure it’ll be fine… just intro jitters.

So far, I seem to be getting along really well with everyone there! I think I have somewhat of a reputation for being talkative; I’m certainly not quiet to the point of being shy.  I don’t mind people thinking that I’m easy to talk to, and I’m 23 years old now so I am happy to voice my opinion as long as the situation is comfortable and demands it.  But I know that in the past, people have built preconceptions of me as talking too much, having a loud voice, not thinking before I speak.  Sometimes I don’t; I’m only human – but the way that I dress, the way that I act, my interests and hobbies and the way I carry myself and am able to have fun and be sociable does not equate to me not having a brain and not being able to engage it at the same time as my vocal cords.  Intelligence is not solely measured by IQ and the ability to memorise x amounts of books – I think that emotional intelligence, common sense, practical intelligence is all important too.

And I am so happy that my coursemates kinda reacted incredulously when I said “I know that I can talk a lot, but I also know how to shut up and listen to what other people say.” They were like “Alan, of course, the way you express yourself is very eloquent and you don’t say anything just for the sake of it.”  Telling them a bit about the preconceptions I am aware that people in the past have had of me, they were like “well we never thought that at all” (for example, I never like to reveal outright where I went to university because I don’t want it to compromise anyone’s opinion of me; but if asked, I will say “Oxford” – after all, I earned my place there so why keep it a secret?  Often, people’s immediate response is “Oh, Oxford Brookes, right?” Because I could never be bright enough to go to the real Oxford University – and in addition to insulting me, they also insult all the Brookes students too!  Oxford Brookes University runs some fantastic vocational courses, from what I understand.).

During our practice day preparation session, there was a point during debating the timetable / structure of the day where I didn’t really understand what was going on.  Instead of voicing my misunderstandings and adding to the general overall confusion, I just kept my mouth shut, looked through a folder with banks of activities, and started pulling out things which might be useful.  I knew that too many voices weren’t gonna help things, so I stayed quiet and let the others resolve things.  That was important to me because I didn’t want to enter into any kind of organisational role (especially since that wasn’t my role on this occasion), or be seen to be either bossy or ditzy; I knew that the organisers would sort things out, and that there were other useful things I could do in the meantime.  Whether the others do value what I say, find that I express myself with an eloquence that’s beyond my years (something Leanne said, which truly complimented me) or whatever, I don’t need to speak all the time.  Sometimes less is more.

Which is perhaps why I have not written so much on here in the past week or so; I guess that I haven’t had anything burning to write and I’ve been busy living my life and getting on with other things.  By this point, I’ve written plenty of blog entries that I don’t necessarily need to write every day; there’s still plenty of reading material here for y’all!  And I still definitely enjoy composing a blog entry; but I’m not going to blog for the sake of blogging, because if I have nothing to say, then that entry is going to devalue my words.  And I like to think that when I speak, my words have meaning.  So don’t worry if I’m quiet, or if I don’t write for a day or two – I’ll be back! (I can hardly stay silent for ever – less may sometimes be more, but nothing will still be nothing 😉 )  And when I speak, hopefully you’ll find what I say interesting.  Just for a little teaser of things I am developing in my mind to talk about: my mixtape High Fashion; tarot; Mariah Carey’s new album Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel; more relationship drama!  Keep it locked – I appreciate you and I enjoy you all!