A word is a sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning.
A word can have a completely different meaning to us today, compared to what we thought it meant when we were younger.
There are words that we hear and use, some of which go through an evolution process, often based on personal experiences as we go through life.
In this article, I analyse my past and present definitions of certain words that have resonated with me on several occasions.
A severe headache or other after-effects caused by drinking an excess of alcohol.
In all honesty, I had no idea what this meant before going to university.
When I was around sixteen years old, I remember studying my older brother who was slouched on the sofa for an entire Saturday, without uttering more than a few words like: 'Pass me the remote' or 'What's for dinner?'
It puzzled me. What could have possibly happened that had the ability to turn someone into a vegetable, that isn't a serious illness?
I asked my brother to explain himself, which appeared to be the only thing we could talk about that day and he told me that he was hungover. To me, this meant that someone is hanging over something... what was he hanging over except the sofa?
Not long after, once I experienced Student Union bars, Happy Hours (that make you happy until the next morning), pounding headaches and what feels like a shrunken brain playing pin-ball within the boundaries of my skull... I can now define a hangover.
Feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one's current activity.
When I was bored as a child, I complained but did nothing about it. I got bored of studying, because I wasn't interested in the subject, or bored of being at a party because I had to play with all the other kids who were my parents' friends' children, whether we got along, or not. Sometimes everything was boring.
What I didn't realise was that when we are bored, we are not doing something that interests us much (or at all) and we could look for something else, that does. In fairness, we didn't always have much say in deciding what we wanted to do back then, but as adults, we should look at boredom as an opportunity for learning, growth and exploring unexplored territories, interests that we never pursued and so on.
For instance, I started srtravels.co.uk when I was bored and now I have confirmed my passion for writing and sharing my thoughts - even if it is about boredom itself!
"When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Feeling pleasure or contentment.
To some extent, I feel like I was happier as a child, in the sense that I worried less, enjoyed every moment that made me happy like having my favourite chocolate ice cream... and didn't let that become more than what it was: a temporary feeling.
As adults, we may ask ourselves or others, perhaps more often than necessary: Are you happy?
The answer could be based on that moment: yes, because my best friend is getting married, or no, because I just got robbed. But we could be inclined to dwell much deeper into the search for 'happiness' and start worrying unnecessarily if we are not happy all the time or most of the time. As human beings, and probably many other living creatures out there, we have good and bad days and ups and downs or else life would become uninteresting (i.e. boring: refer to point 2).
On top of that, we start worrying about whether we will be happy in future if we did X, Y or Z. The reality is that we don't know, but we can make informed decisions to keep moving and take calculated risks so that we experience as much as we can, in this life.
In my blog about Work-Life balance, I mentioned a TED Talk by Emily Esfahani Smith who highlighted four 'pillars' to living a good or meaningful life:
Note that she doesn't call it a 'happy life', because maybe there isn't really such a thing?
Pressure or tension exerted on an object or person.
Stress balls were as far as my understanding of the word stress was before I stepped into my mid-twenties.
To me, the implications of persistent stress can cause permanent damage to our mental and physical health, be it our bad posture resulting in muscle spasms or crazy working hours, which could slowly eat into our mental health.
Difficult situations and environments can put people through varying levels of stress.
According to the American Institute of Stress, there is good and bad stress. As shown in the diagram, increased stress could result in higher productivity, but only until a certain point, after which things could go downhill.
However, that turning point is different for individuals so we need to be alert to symptoms of when the mental stress is going from good to not-so-good (distress).
An intense feeling of deep affection.
At the age of two, I remember telling my mum, dad and brother: 'I labba you' and that was as far as love meant for me.
Since I was a toddler, I watched several movies, especially Bollywood movies, which are almost always love stories and I still didn't understand what all the fuss was about and why people did stupid things for someone they just met.
For instance, a typical Bollywood plot in the '90's would involve a daughter of a rich man falling in love with a poor guy and when the parents are against the relationship, the daughter ditches her platonic love of twenty years and picks her romantic love of a month or so.
How ungrateful is that?
Everyone has a different definition for love and some people may have amazing love stories of eloping and living happily ever after... however, personally I feel that romantic and platonic love should be held accountable on equal principles, with different types of 'feelings' associated to them.
Romantic love is often described as being accompanied by 'butterflies', excitement, passion and desire, while platonic love is secure, comforting and probably a bit more boring.
From what I have experienced, a combination of traits like the below are (or should be) common in either types of love:
“Let love be genuine; hold fast to what is good.” – Romans 12:9
An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.
I still remember a recurrent nightmare that I used to have as a small child, of an angry brown bear that chased me down the stairs of an apartment block (like they do...). I was also afraid of spirits possessing my favourite baby dolls, to the point that I locked them up in a cupboard for several years and didn't go near them, thanks to a not-so-considerate uncle and his terrible horror stories.
In my case, fear back then was based on superficial stories which disappeared over time as I came to realise how bears don't really like living in cities and spirits probably have better things to do than to haunt young children.
Nowadays, I feel like fear is more about the future or about failure. This comes in different times and is amplified by situations, but there is an unseen level of societal pressure of living the 'perfect life', which could make a perfectly normal and successful person in their own rights, wonder if they're 'on track' or not as successful as others.
Sometimes we also try to predict our future and have fear about things not going as planned, when the reality is: we really don't know what will happen, even if we do everything we think is right to get the outcome we desire.
I covered this topic in more detail in my blog about freaking out.
As an adult, I have been afraid of change (fear of lack of control), leaving past jobs (fear of failure), leaving relationships that didn't work (fear of being alone), traveling on my own (fear of safety)... but what I have noticed is that, for all of the things I have mentioned, once I found the courage to overcome that fear and move forward, good things came out of them and I was a much stronger person than I was before then.
There are more philosophical discussions around the fear of death of ourselves or loved ones, but the only 'medicine' for this topic, with death being inevitable, is: acceptance of the impermanence of everything.
“Above all, don't fear difficult moments. The best comes from them." - Rita Levi-Montalcini
These are just some words that I have learnt to explore a(nother) side to, over time, but who knows, the definitions could change again as we experience more of what life has to offer, molding our past and current understanding of words and the importance they hold in our vocabulary.
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