Reading Between The Lines…

Today I’ve been thinking about how much we take for granted and how things aren’t always as they seem. I think it’s something we all need to think about a bit more, so I’m going to chat about that for a bit alongside some motivational illustrations from Instagram artists that I dig, because we all need a little more art in our lives too. I painted an acrylic portrait this week, the second I’ve done in 10 years, even though it was something that I always adored doing at college and school. Why do we stop doing things that make us happy when we “grow up”? Anyway, life is complicated and we need to all learn to read between the lines more often.

A post shared by Mari Andrew (@bymariandrew) on

Today I sat in the sun and drank mint tea with some lovely ladies and we got talking about the problems with transparency with brands, in particular fashion. Being green, ethical and sustainable is cool right now and there are brands trying to tag onto this but without actually taking on the full sentiment. This video by Kristen Leo about the sneaky wording on H&M’s website (thanks to @theprivategirl on Twitter for making me aware of this video) about this issue, definitely give it a watch. This then brought us to thinking about how much many people just go with and accept what they read without questioning it or doing any of their own research. That’s the kind of thing that you’d get into major trouble for if you were writing an essay at college or university, yet now we’re in the real world, apparently it’s OK to just use Wikipedia level sources to base your opinions and knowledge off. This is a problem. Modern day marketing tactics and social media use have made is SO easy to just jump onto a cause or story with very few sources or further research and it’s causing problems. Same goes for the epidemic of clickbait headlines and the risks of accidentally sharing fake news, particularly as sources that we think we can trust start to dumb down their content (some for political reasons) it’s very confusing and complicated. We’ve all got to take responsibility to question what we read, before jumping to conclusions and have conversations about the important stuff.

There’s this knee-jerk reaction on social media whenever a controversial headline pop up, it’s usually a negative onslaught along the lines of “OMG how fucking stupid is this” or a little rant about how X, Y & Z really pisses you off and it’s just not healthy. Especially when some of these reactions are based on a basic level of information or research, we need to learn to have a conversation instead of instantly creating drama, which just contributes to the fake news problem and is making social media a pretty exhausting place to live. Can anyone else relate to this?

Likewise, we should apply the same reading between the lines concept to people and relationships. Life is hard. It’s not like it’s sold to us in magazine and on reality TV (ironically) there’s always some kind of obstacle in the way of that next goal and we’ve all got to learn and adapt quickly to keep moving forward. With social media making it so easy for many people to curate their lives without the need for real life interaction and therefore evidence, it’s further adding to this false vision of what other people’s lives are actually like, it’s feeding anxieties and knocking the confidence of some fragile people. No wonder so many of us suffer from mental illness. We’ve got to read between the lines, we’ve got to have more conversation and invest more time in relationships because when we’re old and tired that flawless selfie or cupcake photo that you posted to a couple of thousand followers (read: mostly strangers) in 2016 won’t mean shit. What will matter is the friends we’ve hung onto, our families and even our pets, so that when times get tough we have a support network of people we can trust. In addition, it’s about doing stuff that makes you happy and not getting distracted by trying to live up to some (possibly unachievable) example that society says you should be.

It’s also about being empathetic and open minded to other people’s situations and feelings. We’re all different after all, that’s nature and that’s OK, it’s impossible for us all to comply to one concept of “normal” or “accepted”. All the Instagram accounts I’ve referenced in this post are from illustrators who specialise in representing mental illness and questioning perceptions of people, these are great examples of how we can all open our minds and be more kind to those around us. Being kind to others should come naturally, it makes other people feel better and it makes yourself feel more fulfilled too. Human interaction is natural, we need it. And if you don’t have that many humans around, sometimes a cat can help too.

Never assume someone has a perfect life, stop comparing yourself to other people and stop trying to be like other people, it doesn’t work that way, you are your own person. By trying to live up to your perception of someone else’s perfect life, you’re just setting yourself up for a ridiculous task. Stop lurking on social media, wasting away hours double tapping on random stuff that may or may not actually inspire you to do something that might make you feel happier. Start having more conversations, read more, do your research, go outside, create stuff and be available for those that you care about. A friend (@pierawr) recommended I watched Minimalism on Netflix this week (you should watch it too) after a conversation about sustainability and this quote stuck with me and relates to this conversation too.

“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works” –

I’m reading back through this blog post now and can see that it’s basically an open letter to myself, it’s what I need to do more too. However, I hope that someone else might read it and be inspired to make some positive changes in their lives too. Find what and who makes you happy and spend more time doing that and developing those valuable relationships. We’ve all got our own unique stories to tell, we’ve all gone through some kind of drama and there is no way we can fully understand people around us unless we interact more in a meaningful way and with an open mind and heart.

A post shared by Mel Stringer (@melstringer) on

I’m here if anyone wants to talk. This weekend I’m getting my creative flair back on and am going to pledge to myself that I WILL do something creative everyday from now on. Now I remember why I liked blogging, it’s the easiest, quickest way for me to have a form of creative output. I’m also going to sew some new clothes and do some painting. Let me know your thoughts and if you know of any other awesome illustrators on Instagram that I might like you know how to find me. Look after yourselves and each other and keep petting cute dogs on too, that always helps everything. Unless you’re allergic.

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