In this week’s Wellbeing Matters spot, Jane looks at the importance of sometimes just stepping out.

Booksmart has just popped up on Amazon Prime, and what a charming film it is. Underneath the teenage froth there’s a lovely heart, with a reminder that life isn’t just about chasing the prize. Academic prowess and work goals are all great – so long as you remember that life isn’t just about ticking off boxes.

There’s other stuff that is just as important.  Those moments when you step back and allow yourself to breathe. To have a bit of fun. To spend time with people who may not further your CV, but who enhance your life in many other ways.

It may seem an odd comparison, but Booksmart reminded me of a Thomas Hardy poem, A Young Man’s Epigram on Existence:

‘A senseless school, where we must give
Our lives that we may learn to live!
A dolt is he who memorizes
Lessons that leave no time for prizes.’

Even in Victorian times, before the era of constant information and technical gadgetry attached to our persons at all times, Hardy was warning us not to become so caught up in our goals that we lose a connection to what makes life worth living.

Don’t get silo’d. Look outside the window on occasion, get merry, dance inappropriately and remember friends and family. There’s space in life to engage with the people who make you happy just by their presence in your life. Simple as that.

Maybe think about someone you’ve not seen for a while and drop them an email, a word, a thought, even a memory of a time when you were together and had a blast.

Take a walk. Open your ears, your eyes and take in the world around you. We are so often cocooned in our own concerns and internal noise that we switch off from what is going on about us. Alternatively, we can become stuck in an echo chamber of noise, where repetition of belief drowns out any alternative viewpoint. This isn’t healthy – to understand one another we need to be open to discussion, even if we disagree.

In Booksmart, Amy and Molly had become isolated by their own pursuit of the perfect scores and the dream future. They’d shut themselves off from their peers, and the wider education of school that doesn’t involve rote learning – that of social and emotional connections. That’s not to say they were self-involved, unsympathetic characters. Far from it. They were funny, supportive, insecure teenagers who had boxed themselves into a specific role. And they came to realise how that constrained them.

It doesn’t matter what age we are; we are constantly evolving as life events make their imprint on us. Sometimes they are so all consuming it can be easy to pull our drawbridges up. Sometimes we should maybe cut the ropes, and open ourselves up to stepping outside of our own particular boxes.

Stepping out and acknowledging our flaws or inexperience can be terrifying and messy. It can also be exhilarating and empowering. It doesn’t matter if we make mistakes. We might just build memories and support networks that are there for us in the bad times, as well as good.

Step out. Talk to someone new, someone who makes you look at life from a different perspective. Put down the phone, tablet, laptop for fifteen minutes and talk to you partner about their day, hug your kids and your pets. Ask how they’re doing. It’s great to have goals. It’s also pretty great to live life with an open and curious mind.

Take care, and thanks for reading.

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