Not this time.

There’s a reason when you’re on an airplane that flight attendants tell you to put your own mask on first in case of an emergency. Look after yourself first and foremost, because then it makes it a lot easier for you to look after others. Sounds simple, right? Isn’t it important that you put your own needs and wants before those of anyone else? Looking after yourself and constantly discovering what and who makes you happy is probably a pretty good starting point. Some people might tell you that it’s selfish but it’s anything but. Introspection is a great thing, look at yourself and see if you’re heading in the direction you want to be going and doing all of the things that you want to be doing, whether that’s work or in your personal life. Dr Aziz Gazipura, one of the world’s leading clinical psychologists gets it. ‘Always putting others first creates deep resentment, destroys your happiness and is unsustainable. Putting yourself first allows you to meet your needs in the most skillful way. This in turn, increases your happiness, joy and capacity to love, so you can give freely and create healthy relationships.’ Healthy would be the takeaway word from that quote.

It’s too easy sometimes to think of others first, whether it’s big or small things. Someone bumps into you and you’re the one who says sorry, what’s that about? You hold a door open for someone and not even a nod of acknowledgement comes your way. You let someone cut in front of the queue at a supermarket because they have less items and they cruise on past you like you’re not even there. So shines many good deeds in what can be an unkind world, even if other people don’t appreciate the tiniest of gestures that you’re happy and willing to make. It’s easier said than done but there is zero point in wasting your energy on the things that you can’t control. A point comes when enough is enough, especially when the sacrifice is bigger. Fuck apologies, the only person you need validation from looks back at you in the mirror every day.

How long do you wait until you’ve decided that you’re tired of the way your life is going because someone is holding you back emotionally? It’s been too long for this not to be me.

I’m not perfect, I’ve got pride.

One day you wake up and just know that one person can and will change everything for the better, even if they didn’t mean to. It was a sobering moment when that penny finally dropped but there’s no room for toxic people in any of our lives. Cut them loose, won’t you feel all the better for it? Yep, it takes balls, but isn’t it a far more attractive option to hurt for a little while than to carry on hurting forever? No need for you to become a static cliche, someone who sticks about feeling unhappy just because you’re worried about what might be on the other side? Sometimes the grass is greener. Maybe it’ll be a life you’ve never experienced before, but perhaps it is. You chose to give it up to try and give someone another chance, more fool you, but you backed yourself in that moment, so why wouldn’t you do the same now?

Not everything is black and white though, but there’s plenty of colour out there going around to make things better for each of us, maybe we’ve just not all grasped that yet. Sometimes it’s hard to take but now and again, you need someone to give you a shake, to tell you words that you really need to hear. Nothing wrong with a bit of tough love on occasion. I guess there comes a day when every man draws his own line in the sand. Spending time on your own and listening to yourself is probably something that none of us do as much as we should. Sure, we’re all worried about different things but even if our progress is slow, progress is still being made.

Do you remember that feeling you had when you started something new? How it felt, how it brought a chunk of sunshine into a dark day? It’s not always going to be smooth, but you stick with it because you know the alternative made you deeply unhappy.

I had to come home to realise that it wasn’t home any more. Some people haven’t changed a bit, it’s like I was never away. With good friends, you just fall back into things seamlessly. Other people are jealous of your success, about the life you were enjoying until it gets to a point where they resent you. Those are the types of people in your life that you don’t want to make space for. Any of us can change our lives for the better but don’t hate on someone who’s taken the decision to enrich themselves just because you’re too chicken shit to do the same. I was starting to feel empathy for you but why should I?

Pity and sympathy are two different things. You can sympathise with someone and let them know that you understand any distress, grief or sorrow that they might be going through. All in all, a positive emotion. Pity is definitely more of a negative thing and you might get to the stage where you actually feel sorry for someone.

It’s not been that hard with the benefit of hindsight to decide to leave that toxic person behind. The day has come when plans need to be made to really go back home and try and rediscover that time when everything was nearly as perfect as it could possibly be. Sometimes it takes going away to bring you back.

Usually I go and take the blame but not this time. It’s our world to discover, either alone or with someone and this will be so much better alone.

I would say I’m sorry if I really meant it.

@TheSamMcLeod

JoJo’s new album, ‘Good To Know’ drops on May 1st.

That’s just being friendly.

What’s worse, too much unwanted romantic attention or no romantic attention at all?

When a relationship ends, your head and your heart can lead you in a few directions. Take some time out and look after yourself, dive straight into something serious with someone else, or even sleep with as many people as you want to with no commitment offered. Any choice you make is okay for you, but you want to try and make sure that you don’t hurt or lead anyone else on. No rocket science is involved, it’s just making the right decisions at the right times.

It gets awkward though when someone of the opposite sex mistakes kindness or politeness for flirting. You don’t need to ask for, court or invite attention, hopefully if you act as you always do, them people will treat you in a way that we’d all like to be treated. Chivalry isn’t necessarily a choice that every man makes, sometimes you just know what the right thing to do is. Always hold the door open for others. You give up your seat for a lady on a bus or a train, no questions asked. Make someone feel comfortable in your company, always behaving in a friendly manner and never crossing the lines of decency is how things should be. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being courteous.

Always good to have rules, especially with your closest friends, right?

If your job means that you have to wear a shirt and tie, your tie must be darker than your shirt, otherwise you will be called out on it if you end up looking like a waiter, no offence meant to hospitality professionals. No three-piece suits are allowed, you don’t play snooker for a living. No birthday cards are ever sent, shit, you’ll be lucky if we even remember that you’ve just turned a year older. You will be bought alcohol if someone reminds us, it just won’t be on the day. If we’re all together and it’s looking like we’re about to run out of beer, rock paper scissors will be played to decide who heads out for more. It’s also automatically understood that if any change is leftover, it stays in the pocket of whoever went. Sadly, sisters of friends are out of bounds. No moustaches will be grown unless it’s for Movember, a fantastic cause. If you get your hair cut, it won’t be commented upon, unless it’s ridiculous and you know that picture of it is being shared freely. No one expects an unanswered call to be returned, we’ll see you again at some point, you can just tell us then. No voicemails ever. Skinny jeans and turtlenecks are a no. If you invite people out for dinner, you always pick.up the bill, regardless of how many people are there. If you’re lucky enough to get a girl to go out with you, she never ever pays. Ever ever.

Do all of your rules apply though with someone you don’t know?

I’m a boy and she’s a girl. A tweet gets posted about a thing and she slides into my direct messages to ask if I’m doing okay. I respond politely, thanking her for her concern and wish her well. She chooses to keep the conversation going by asking more questions, and stupidly I answer them. My replies are always respectful but her messages start to go in a direction that I should beer away from.

I’m not sure if I should read between those lines.

Mistaking someone who’s being nice to you as being flirtatious is dangerous, especially if you’re emotionally vulnerable. If I’m accommodating and thoughtful with you, that’s just being friendly. Sure, sometimes a friendship can develop into something more but not if you start sending unsolicited things that you know you shouldn’t. The decision to hit the block button is an easy one but the courtesy remains as far as everyone else goes.

An email arrives a while later from someone I never knew existed. Clearly, we’ve never interacted, spoken to each other, far less met, but he wants to know how I know his girlfriend. Uh oh. It’s okay to be unhappy in a relationship but don’t you try and remedy that first either way, before looking for validation or an ego boost elsewhere? Do I reply, do I tell him?

What am I supposed to do?

@TheSamMcLeod

The day bleeds into nightfall

Unsurprisingly, Mark Twain had a way with words. ‘Good decisions come from experience, experience comes from making bad decisions.’

The best of people can do things that aren’t right and they can make shit decisions now and again, but it doesn’t necessarily make them less of a human being deep down. That said, it also doesn’t make how they behaved towards you less wrong. We all get lost sometimes, you need to make choices about lots of different things every day. Life isn’t always easy and sometimes people fuck up. Maybe the trick is not to let your trust in others go when that happens. How much tougher does that become when you decide to leave someone you loved for someone new?

Chances are that we’ve all been stabbed in the back by people we trusted the most. Ever been lied to by by someone you loved because you covered up their mistakes to try and protect them? Sometimes there’s going to be days when no-one is going to be there for you but yourself. Betrayal hurts like nothing else, it can be devastating and destroy a lot of things you believe in. It makes a mockery of the trust you had in others and can leave you feeling like you’re all alone. Sure, you can bounce back from a lot of things but betrayal is hard to forgive. Unless you’re an incredible human being, forgiving is not forgetting, right? For some of us, perhaps all we can betray is our conscience, because let’s face it, we’re all in control of how we treat others. You’re not in charge of someone else’s loyalty, it doesn’t matter how good you are to them, there’s no guarantee they’ll treat you the same way. Just because something goes wrong with whatever you have going on, it doesn’t mean that you get to become the wrong in everyone else’s life. Be kind always.

Sometimes the people you love the most turn out to be the people you can trust the least. You have to make decisions that are best for you and nobody else. You can have bad luck but it’s easy to get that tangled up with your bad decisions, unless you sort out in your own head what’s going to be the best thing for you.

We can all fight to hold onto something, and now and again, we try and find the strength to let go, even if we don’t want to be seen as weak or failing. Life is too short to make the wrong choice twice though, so hopefully you evolve, you move on and you trust those people who you think you can count on. Once bitten, twice shy. Some are willing to betray everything you shared just to try and look good in the eyes of other people. It’s laughable though when they think they’re cleaner than ivory snow.

A poor choice was made and not for the first time, the grass wasn’t greener.

I let my guard down and then you pulled the rug.

I can’t explain the pain of someone fucking you over. Hopefully not a lot of us have experienced it but even now, it still hurts. Just emotions, I guess.

The worst part is that it could’ve been forever, fuck, it was a major thing. It was a mistake you said, but maybe the error was mine for trusting you and covering your shit up. I would never do to you what you did to me. I would never hurt you just to make your betrayal hurt you back. I’m enough of an adult to forgive you, but I’m not fucking stupid enough to take you at your word ever again. Someone doing wrong doesn’t give us the right to do wrong back. A feeling of wanting revenge is a horrible emotion, sadly it turns out that sometimes the person that you take a bullet for is behind the trigger.

I don’t give a damn about what people whisper, the truth is finally out there for the people who are willing to look for it or have seen it. Seems like heartbreak makes you find out who stands beside you and who believes the shit that gets fed to them. Every day is a school day.

It’s a pity that you fucked this up, I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved.

@TheSamMcLeod

The story needs more pages.

There are some questions that you know you need to avoid asking. When is your baby due? Always a good idea to make sure that the lady in question, is in fact, pregnant. That was an awkward moment. Are you seeing anyone? No one’s status matters in the way you speak to them unless you’re into him or her in a big way. When you meet someone new, it’s probably not a good idea to query what went wrong in their last relationship. Why aren’t you married? Marriage is an absolute minefield of a topic, best avoided at all costs. Why are you single? Yep, great question to ask, everyone who isn’t with someone else sits around pondering the reasons why they can’t seem to find someone that they’re compatible with. If you’re male, you know it’s an unwritten rule that you can never ask the age of a lady, no good can come of it.

Maybe sometimes though, you need to channel your inner kid curiosity. Who, what, why, where, when, how, those little fuckers never stop asking questions. The absolute wonderful naivety of youth, don’t we all wish that we could go back to that time, even if just for a few moments? Asking questions without having an agenda, without being judged, just a natural impishness to settle things in your own head. You know you can’t get the answer you want if you don’t ask the question. If you never shoot, you’ll never know. Isn’t it true that the only stupid question is the one that’s never asked? There’s nothing wrong with being curious about things and finding yourself slightly confused by the world.

Clearly some questions hold more importance than others though. What to have for dinner tonight isn’t quite as meaningful as what you need to ask someone that you think you might have feelings for or that you think you might be falling in love with.

How do you define what love means to you? The need for the well-being of another person that you care about more than yourself? Having a thing with someone so deep that the twinkling in their eyes becomes important to your own feeling of content? To see that person that makes you happy smiling every day more than once? Someone that you care about so much that you would do whatever you could to stop anything bad from happening to them? It’s all subjective, if you’ve sussed it out, you’re doing well.

I can’t seem to get it right.

Life as a sixteen year old boy isn’t that complicated, there aren’t too many questions that you need to ask. Hopefully you know where your next meal is coming from, school, sports, hanging out with friends, you probably know what every day is going to bring. Until someone comes along and messes all of that up.

Every day at 8am, the bus rocks up to take us all to school. It’s not a long journey, twenty minutes or so and everyone gets lost in their own little world. Personal CD players are everywhere, conversation is scarce. Everyone knows everyone else, some sit on the top deck, the cool kids sit on the bottom at the back, nods are exchanged and everyone loses themselves for a while. With it being a small town, chances are that you saw most of the people that you share the commute with over the weekend anyway, you were probably hanging out with a lot of them. You see this lot more than your own family, no need to be inquisitive, what type of questions do you need answered?

One Monday morning is different to the others that have gone before. The appearance of a new girl on the bus has nearly all of the boys going to the extreme step of taking their headphones off to listen to her voice rather than whoever was their artist of choice. It didn’t hurt that she’s incredibly pretty but immediately we all knew that she was major league whilst we were all the Triple-A equivalent.

Day after day follows and you know you’re in trouble when you start looking forward to the journey to school. Slowly though, a conversation happens, a friendship begins and continues to evolve over the next weeks, months and years. I fell in love with her in stages.

We hang out a lot but the subject is never broached. Having the friendship is infinitely more important than the possibility of fucking things up on a romantic basis, but do the two need to be mutually exclusive? Now would be an ideal time to have that ability again to not care about asking a question. Maybe it’s a healthy thing to hang a question mark on the things that are super important to you, no point diving in if you’re not sure that you’re going to get the answer you want. A lack of self confidence? It’s always easier to talk yourself out of something rather than into it. Sometimes a stubborn mind is a blessing, sometimes it’s anything but. Once an idea forms in your head though, can it be stopped?

Eight words have never travelled from my lips to her ears but maybe it’s time that she knows, if she doesn’t already. Wish me luck.

I’ve been in love with you for ages.

@TheSamMcLeod

No one looks innocent.

There’s about to be a wedding, another man is going to be lost overboard. Before the groom walks down the aisle though and meets his beautiful bride, there needs to be a bachelor party/stag do. It’s a rite of passage, it could be tame, it could be wild but it has to happen. Have a day at a spa if that’s what the main man wants, but don’t you want to try and go big, make it something unforgettable? Forgettable is probably more likely if your collective night pans out the way you all want it to. Well, maybe not all of you.

Back in 2007, two friends had an idea for a movie and wrote a script called ‘What Happens In Vegas’. It was quickly snapped up by a studio but due to various legal difficulties, it didn’t look like it was ever going to be a thing. Two years later however, Warner Bros picked up the rights to the script, promptly renamed it ‘The Hangover’ and made it the first part of what would become the most successful R-rated comedy franchise of all time. Is it a good idea to try and replicate as much of that film experience as possible or not?

George Carlin was widely regarded as one of the best stand-up comedians ever. Chuck in that he was an actor, author and social critic too, and it’s hard not to recognise the genius of the man. He once posited that you should ‘Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.’ Las Vegas, stupid people, a large group, what could possibly go wrong? On your own, you can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for shithousery levels of stupidity, nothing beats teamwork.

I always put myself in destructive situations.

If you’re responsible for such a shindig, you need to listen to the needs and wants of everyone that’ll be going. Some ideas are infinitely more ridiculous than others but don’t you try to make them all happen?

The accommodation is sorted with a pool that leans out over the side of the building. Chuck in butler service and you just know that man is going to deserve every dollar of his tip once the weekend is over.

Not all of us drive, but the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a popular option where you can tear it up in Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens and Porsches. I wouldn’t trust any of these idiots on a bicycle but each to their own. Who in their right mind would want to fly a fighter jet? This guy, and despite some medical advice that it’s a fucking terrible idea, the aviators were packed. None of us have any clue what a hammerhead stall, tail spin or torque roll is but I guess we’ll find out. I’ve already gifted my flat to someone if I don’t make it back alive. Laying your hands on everything from pistols to fully automatic rifles and sub-machine guns at a shooting range doesn’t sit well so the three of them can have at it. There’s a bar across the street, bourbon wins out.

It’s almost a scene from Ocean’s Eleven but cards at the Bellagio is a must. Throw in the complimentary Manhattans and Negronis and you know that the two Scottish boys will kick the balls out of that. Not so sure about the Kiwi or the Yank, but we’ll see and it’s unlikely that any bank heists will take place. I’m not saying that one of us knows how to count cards but I’m also not saying that one of us can’t, seems there are added benefits to a maths degree. Getting a black eye or broken jaw in the back room of a casino would be a story to tell the grandchildren, cliche as hell but probably worth it. There’s a tour of bars that comes with free IPAs’, rookie move Vegas, a day of takings in the red awaits. Who doesn’t think that drinking more beers and renting jetskis on Lake Mead is a good idea?

Pretty vanilla though, time to step it back up. Jump off the Stratosphere, basically a controlled free fall before hitting the Strip, hopefully feet first. Hijacking the pool at the Mandalay Bay, getting led astray by the poolside casino and enjoying the view for the three of us that are single. All are stupid ideas but it’s not really our weekend, or is it? Maybe this kind of trip is for everyone except ironically, the groom? He has to behave to a certain extent whilst everyone else can go crazy. Stupidity has a knack of getting in the way but everything will be alright in the morning, won’t it? As long as the night doesn’t involve acquiring a random baby or stealing a tiger, the night can be counted as a success. Famous last words.

Just getting him to the church safely is the ultimate goal but that can wait for now.

We’ve got a big, big mess on our hands tonight.

@TheSamMcLeod

A heart of doubt.

A new year approaches and so we make resolutions. Join a gym or at least go back to the one that we’ve been paying for and not using. Stop smoking, drink less alcohol, lose weight and be healthy, take up a new hobby, spend more time with family and friends, the list is almost endless. Those are all pretty common so you might choose things that are a bit more personal.

Answering yes to more questions, to more chances of experiencing new things. It’s easy to shut yourself off at times, to just be on your own but maybe intrinsically you know that you need to mix things up now and again. The word ‘Yes’ is a sentence, first resolution makes the list. Learning to say no to other things, it’s a failing if you’re trying to please everyone all of the time. The word ‘No’ is also a sentence, second one sorted. You can be a kind person with a good heart and still say no to people. You want to know when to say no when you need to, but also when you say yes, the people around you know that you mean it. Setting boundaries can be a good idea. Sometimes you need to let people in, to let new things in or to let some things go if they’re not making you happy. Three for three, that’ll do for now, baby steps, right?

You need some things, people you care about, that you love. Sometimes you find those people when you least expect to. You can just click with someone and know that you’re both going to get along, you don’t have to pretend to be anyone else or anything that you’re not. Sure, sometimes your relationship will be going great and at others, it’ll be a bit of a struggle.

Last night we were more than fine.

In the middle of checking into a hotel and whilst the process is taking place, I look around and see her sitting in the bar. She spots me stealing a momentary glance, I’m so busted, but I get a smile so naturally one is returned. I concentrate on the person sorting out my room though, being rude is no bueno. Key collected, bags unpacked and a much needed shower after a forty hour journey is welcome. A beer downstairs follows, she’s still there and we strike up a conversation. She’s friendly, but our time ends with that one drink. A couple of days go by and I don’t see her.

Walking around the city, I randomly bump into her a few days later, smiles and awkward hugs are exchanged and we go for a drink. It turns out we like a lot of the same things, she’s also into spicy food, tequila, travel and girls. I didn’t see that coming but I like hanging out with her so why not continue to do so, everyone has friends that they’re not into in a romantic way. We have another week in the same city and we spend a lot of time together, eating, drinking, exploring. The friendship is formed and it’s sad when she has to go home.

Sussing out the benefits of any relationship is down to no one else but yourself. You can be around someone initially that you think you’re attracted to, but as time progresses, the friendship takes over and those feelings fade. No romance is on the cards but wouldn’t you want to be friends with the kind of girl you’d believe if she told you that the earth was flat and that Skittles fell from the sky? Sometimes you just vibe with someone.

We’re in touch regularly and she’s super polite, always asking about family and friends, about what’s going on, generally just a cool human being. Do you ever have a friendship though that’s a one way street? You’re always the first person in touch, the quicker to reply.

You text me when you feel like, when it feels right to you.

Days, weeks, months pass and we’re cool though, we speak, we hang out when she’s here and when I’m anywhere near her. An invite is extended to bring in 2020 together with other friends, she accepts and a plan is made.

Her plane lands, I pick her up and nothing has changed, the chat is seamless, it’s like we’ve never been apart. Neither of us have girlfriends but only one of us is looking for one, first time being a wingman for a lady.

The last day of the year is here, food and drinks with friends, always good. The bells toll to bring in the new year, we hug as is the case with everyone else, but she kisses me hard and it takes more seconds than it should to pull away. Conversing becomes difficult as I shake my head and tell her that we can’t. I love her but I’m not in love with her. It’s probably something that would’ve never happened if it wasn’t for a shit ton of tequila. Not all common interests are good.

The pain on her face is almost palpable, those falling tears hurt even more, but it’s down to excess on a special night of the year. It’s hard to look at the ruin, but it’s harder still not to find beauty in her decay, sometimes all you want is to get or give a hug.

Who doesn’t like being kissed? It has to be right though, if it’s not, then what’s the point? Isn’t it better to feel bad for a moment by saying no and stopping things going too far rather than harming you both in the long run? It’s okay to misjudge things but you always know when something isn’t coming from the right place.

On your lips just leave it, if you don’t mean it.

@TheSamMcLeod

When you’re lionhearted.

As a new year approaches, isn’t it the best time to say goodbye to some people and some things, and hello to a lot of new stuff that could change your life in the year ahead? Perhaps the most exciting part is that you have zero clue about what any of those things might be.

Transformation isn’t an easy thing, it’s often full of chaos and can be the start of a lot of conflict with yourself. Change is scary, it’s okay to be a little bit frightened about the good and bad things that await you. Maybe the point is though, those things are a chance of a shot at inner growth; a rebirth almost, where you restart yourself, when you realise who you are once more. There’s fuck all wrong with learning to learn again. You remember what you’re all about and the game changes, one moment could decide it all.

Good things can prompt you into thinking about the year ahead, a choice about new decisions. Jobs, relationships, travel, new friends, additions to your family, the list is almost endless. Flip things though, and it’s the same for all of the bad. Losing a job, a relationship ending, losing a loved one, life has a way of putting up obstacles that stop you getting on with what you need or want. Does anything ever remain as it was?

When the bad shit happens, we all know that it hits hard, and so we need to decide on certain things, about how we continue, about how we move on. Realising that you can find that you know exactly what to do in all of those dark days has to be a crumb of comfort, doesn’t it?

It’s not always easy, sometimes we brace and then fall.

It’s normal to lose confidence but it’s not normal to stay down. Now and again, we all have to stumble or fall to reach the next phase of our lives. Do you ever dream or feel like that you’re standing on the edge of a metaphorical cliff looking down and thinking, ‘I need to do this, I need to jump, it’s the only thing that’ll help me move forward?.

It doesn’t matter a lot of the time what you’ve done in your life. The friendships you’ve made, the breaths you’ve taken, the words you’ve spoken, the people you’ve fallen in love with, you’ve got to start over. Undoubtedly, between the optimism and pessimism that we all juggle with, we reach for either chance or stability, to try and carve out a sense of belief that we’re all on the right road that we want to be on.

It’s not always something that’s said out loud but as midnight approaches, don’t we all think to ourselves, ‘Next year will be my year?’ Let’s hope so for every single one of us.

This year can do one. The loss of a loved one, the end of an important relationship, serious injury, life threatening illness, having to move house and change jobs. Fuck you 2019, 2020, I’ve got this.

Anguish, grief, hurt, loneliness, regret, no emotions that any of us should have to feel on and day, week, month or year but it’s just life. It can be a tough road but you know that some things will only scratch your surface whilst others will hit you at your very core. You get to decide which are which though because you’ve got this too. Suss out the emotions you need to have to start the year in a strong way, right?

Good news will come your way in the year ahead, and whilst it’s hard not to be able to share your joy with the people you miss the most who are no longer around, thinking of yourself should kick in again. Retain the love, respect and thought for others, but do you.

Sometimes you wake up one day, just like any other, and you decide that you don’t like it anymore. So, you make a change. You need to be selfish at times and do what’s right for you.

Sometimes we don’t fall at all.

@TheSamMcLeod