I went to Macomb this weekend, which prompted the question of “Why?!” when I told people. I have family in Macomb, family who I enjoy the company of but have never really hung out with due to growing up on the other side of the Atlantic, and I guess because of age. I’m younger and that makes our paths cross less. I have hardly any experience of small town America. I live in a big city, I visit big cities, small town America doesn’t really appear in my life. But I can drive now, and I want to experience more of this country and that’s going to involve small towns. Big cities can get monotonous, small towns would have more individual charm, at least that’s what I’m hoping.
Travelling is a big goal of mine this year, and sometimes that’s not going to be the kind of travel that involves me getting on a plane. Sometimes it’s just going to be a short drive to somewhere cool to go hiking. It might be kayaking in the Skokie Lagoon again. When I booked my flights to Atlanta it was a little scary. Before that I had been on a plane by myself for sure, but I’ve never vacationed alone. There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with that as a woman and a brown woman, especially going to the South. But it was awesome, I had a wonderful time. It was the freedom of doing whatever I wanted to do at my own pace mixed with the fact that I didn’t feel any pressure to be social. Wondering around a new city with my headphones on just taking in the sites and being able to zone out, get out of my head, live in the present. All things I struggle with usually.
So Macomb to me was travelling to a new place. I’m not used to driving through corn fields, and yes it is flat and monotonous at points. But it’s also beautiful. Vast expanses of barren looking land dusted with snow, with these weird looking sheds in the middle looking abandoned but probably being used as storage. Hawks everywhere, one was so giant I swerved a little in the road because I was just staring at it on this tree. There was a couple of never ending cargo trains which cut through the fields, one that cut through a very small hill as it tore across the fields. Yes, it’s all very flat and is mostly farmland, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to write it off. There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there if you grew up in Ilford where there is like one tree.
It was this weekend, after a wonderful Saturday of brunch and exploring, awesome conversations and learning about my family here that I realised I’m the most calm I have ever been in the last 15 years. The calm is probably linked to the fact I really don’t hate myself anymore, accepting the person that I am and loving that person has made me able to deal more rationally with things that used to make me super anxious. I was always worried once I felt like this, once the manic highs and lows were gone, that I wouldn’t be as creative as I was. I thought that was pushing me to do more, but it was holding me back so much. Right now I’m playing guitar, learning embroidery, drawing, painting, writing.. I am pushing myself more because of the boost in self confidence. I’ve been to three different cities since 2019 started and have just taken photos that I enjoyed. 90% of my Atlanta photos are of fish, because the aquarium was amazing. I’ve felt no need to blog about them or edit them. Some of those stories are best saved for not on the internet. That’s okay.
A lot of this has been accomplished because I’ve learnt to just be okay hanging out on my own. I can take time out away from people and no longer feel guilty. Going on vacation and being in my own company for the weekend isn’t daunting and I don’t feel anxious that people are watching me eat dinner alone and feeling sorry for me. The after effects of a lot of anxiety issues that I had were overthinking, paranoia and major social anxiety. Now it’s more openness, acceptance and less worrying, the less worrying helps a ton with social stress, I just talk to people now, it’s fine if I’m weird or I say something that no-one finds funny. The world doesn’t end. We’re all good.
I’m writing this now because it’s been steadily like this for the last 6 months. Usually I am waiting for the crash, for the moment I get shaken and suddenly everything sucks again. I mean that could happen, but honestly, if it does I feel like I can handle this. I feel more steady now, no longer are things rocketing to highs and lows and never allowing me to find my feet. When I read that news about Wil Wagner recently I realised how much healing I’d done from my own experiences of gaslighting in the punk scene. Those emails were massively triggering to me, but they made me angry that we deal with this shit, that men are allowed to get away with this shit. It wasn’t hard to read because it brought back all the negativity to me, because I’m actually healing and moving forward now and that is so important.
I don’t write in here as often as I would like because I don’t want to treat it like a LiveJournal account. It’s not a place for me to just gush about my life and mental health, it’s mean to be a place for me to grow in my writing. But perhaps to grow I do need to just write posts like this occasionally. So here is a photo I took of a whale shark where you can grasp how huge this animal is. I hope I get the chance one day to see them in the wild, I won’t say I never will because life can go in any direction, but until then it was super cool to see them in Atlanta.
Maryam Hassan is a 32 year old Photographer, Montessori Teacher, Wearer of Yellow from London who transplanted herself to Chicago in 2015. She likes punk music, hash browns, animal facts and mangoes.
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