The journey of someone just like you, on a journey just like you

Author: Matt Clark (Page 1 of 28)

Is It Harder To Date As A Christian?

Is the faith factor playing against your love life? Let’s have a look at whether or not it is harder to date as a Christian.

Is It Harder To Date As A Christian?
Photo by Jep Gambardella via PEXELS

Dating can be really, really easy for some people. They meet someone, a week later they are already in the “hanging out” phase, and then six months later there’s a ring or two involved. I’ve known quite a few couples in this boat where things have gone exactly like this and they’re still doing really well years later.

These are probably the few people who everyone wants to be like. Unfortunately, these are the minority that the majority wishes they were like. I know I wasn’t in this boat.

For everyone else, dating can be really, really hard.

My main exposure to the current state of the dating market is largely in Christian circles. I am super involved in church life and a large number of my currently single friends are Christians across various churches. And as people head into their late 20s, 30s, even 40s, and still not able to find someone they deem to be suitable (or someone who deems them suitable in return), it can be an extremly frustrating experience.

And you begin to wonder… is it harder to date as a Christian than otherwise? Is my faith causing me additional grief in the area of dating?

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What The War In Ukraine Teaches Me About Humanity

War is terrible, and unfortunately a great revealer. Here are 5 things the war in Ukraine teaches me about humanity.

What the War In Ukraine Teaches Me About Humanity
Source: WIRED

Like most of us, February 24 2022 rolled around and I found myself checking my phone every few minutes of every day to see what on earth was happening in my lifetime.

It marked the beginning of the “special military operation” (Russia’s words) by the Russian Federation into the nation of Ukraine. President Putin had been repeatedly demanding his issues of NATO be resolved, and launched a sudden campaign to “denazify” Ukraine and free the eastern self-proclaimed (ish?) republics in the Donbass region.

However most shockingly, the invasion actually primarily focused around Kyiv. In 2022, a major world power tried to invade and capture the capital of another major world power, even via the lands of another world power in Belarus. It’s like the ghosts of Hitler and Stalin came back for another round.

It’s been devastating for so many people. The Ukranians of course, but also for the citizens of Russia. Whether it’s by bomb or economic sanction, life on both sides has been devastated.

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Elden Ring is Brilliantly Awful (Or Is It Awfully Brilliant?)

Elden Ring is brilliantly awful. It’s the best worst game, and the worst best game, I’ve ever played. Here’s my spoiler free review of the biggest game of the year.

Elden Ring is brilliantly awful, or is that awfully brilliant?
My super awesome Confessor and that giant tree

Like many people, I saw all the ads for Elden Ring. Every game and technology store had a huge poster out the front. Game sites were going nuts about it. People playing the closed beta/network test loved it. And it launched on Steam to absolutely ridiculous success, having the sixth highest number of players.

I’ve never really enjoyed any of the Souls’ series of games, and I’m not huge on open world games besides a few (more on that later), so I didn’t think too much of it.

And then the game hit YouTube. And every second video was Elden Ring Elden Ring Elden Ring. And after watching a few, I realised it was a game I would thoroughly enjoy. Plus after recently replaying Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster, I needed to put something on our TV that my wife would still enjoy watching when she’s around.

And then the amazing Ming-Na Wen was in a trailer for it, and I realised I would be buying it.

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To The Man Who Wants To Be The Head of the House

Are your words demanding something that your life isn’t? To the man who wants to be the head of the house…

To the man who wants to be the head of the house
Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

I’m always fascinated by common patterns and trends in human relationships. Maybe underneath my IT, technology focused veneer and career is an anthropologist lying in wait. But I find myself so interested in statements that get repeated in or about relationships, as well as paradigms that drive people together or tear them apart.

Some common phrases I’ve explored in the past include “I’m too busy for a relationship“, “I’m not ready for a relationship“, “nobody is good enough for me“, and even a whole bunch of ways I believe all marriages to be the same.

One I’ve heard recently in multiple arenas being thrown around is a number of men saying they want to be the head of the house, and a number of women saying they want a man who takes the lead in that regard as well. I’ve seen a big push about it in mainstream media outlets (such as Mama Mia’s married women’s worst marriage advice in 2022 which originally got me thinking on this post), I’ve heard it from single men and women saying that’s the way it should or shouldn’t be when talking about dating, and I’ve heard from a number of married men and women recently saying it’s come up to the benefit or the detriment of the relationship.

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The Stupidest Thing I Did During the Pandemic (Reading Too Much Media)

I’ve done some stupid things, but this is one of the stupidest. Like many people, I found myself consuming and reading too much media.

The stupidest thing I did during the COVID pandemic was reading too much media
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The COVID pandemic has been one of the generation defining events of our time (although the Russia-Ukranian invasion is definitely up there). Millions of people died, international travel stopped, domestic travel was restricted, people were sealed in their houses, vaccines were mandatory, and the impact on world economies is still not yet known.

At the time of writing, the CEO of Moderna has indicated the belief that 2022 is the year for COVID to become endemic, if it hasn’t already in some parts of the world.

This has made me reflect on the stupidest thing I did during the COVID pandemic. I did already write about 7 Good Things To Come Out Of COVID Season (For Real), but I thought what’s something that I didn’t do very well? And I worked it out.

Like most people, I ended up reading too much media.

Well, we had to, right? In my country, like in many Western countries especially, we had daily updates at 10am on case numbers, changes to restrictions, places we could or couldn’t travel, and every other update under the sun. And like many people, I found myself tuning into not just the state premier’s announcement, but the health minister’s update, the Prime Minister’s update, and other federal updates.

In Australia, they would sometimes give you as short as 6 hours notice to head back home otherwise you could be locked out of your state or even your city for two weeks, so we were all tuning in constantly for over a year. In general, I’ve always kept my ear pretty close to the ground on current affairs and always want to know what’s happening.

But then something happened. It wasn’t enough for me to just read the government updates. I needed the media commentary. I needed the explatory studies being raised to the surface. I needed the pros and cons of vaccination from the news sources I usually trusted. Which then turned into the pros and cons from the news sources I don’t usually check (NB. I’m pro-vax). And their contempories.

And then, maybe worst of all – what the comments sections had to say on all the issues. It started as finding out that sometimes the comment sections would list a restriction change or a venue closure that hadn’t been publicised elsewhere at that point in time.

And then my mood started to change. I needed to check the video update as soon as it was available. I needed to see people I didn’t know fight about the benefits and disadvantages of certain virus management strategies. I needed to read all the things people were saying about the government. And sometimes I would get so into the debates that I would find myself getting physically angry, anxious, or upset.

And then I realised – I had been reading too much media.

In reflecting on this discovery that I was reading too much media, I had a few big thoughts coming out of that. Here they are.

Outrage capitalism has (almost) replaced “sex sells”

We all know sex sells. It always has, and it always will. I’ve written about that reality and the impacts of that several times.

But I’ll always remember my friend Aaron describing what was happening in a single phrase – the media was no longer using clickbait, it was now outrage-bait.

There are a variety of sources on this information but a conservative estimate puts video and media consumption up at least 60% due to the pandemic. Nielsen puts it up between 52 and 215% depending on your country. That’s staggering.

And he was right.

Media companies and advertising agencies now even advise their media clients on the power of using shock or outrage marketing.

You don’t even have to look very far to see it happen. Headlines are set up to deliberately trigger people, especially outlets like The Guardian and The Daily Mail which REGULARLY use CAPTIAL LETTERS on ALMOST EVERY post. Headlines are designed to start fights, with most of them even deliberately using words “outrage”, “backlash”, “controversy”. Even though they’re the ones who want you to be outraged or to fight about it!

Then there are media outlets like BuzzFeed, Vox, MTV, and other pop culture oriented sights which intentionally start fights, from vaccines to religion to sexuality to Black Lives Matter and racial tensions.

You and I are the product, my friend. Just look how heated the comments sections get on posts about any of these topics. I know everyone jokingly posts that Michael Jackson popcorn meme as they’re just there for the comments, but the reality is that’s how companies are now making big money.

They’ll even try to manufacture outrage – I’m calling out specifically the Murdoch brand of media such as 9 News Australia or Courier Mail or, which have regularly featured articles which are just people going through Twitter for controversial opinions and posting it as if it’s news.

Or think about how many times you see a post about Flat Earthers. They want you to debate the views of a small minority simply because they’ll get you fired up and drive their engagements up too.

This is what news has turned into, people.

And guess what else happens? Those comment sections drive clicks and shares, which means the media companies make more money.

Which in turn, means they keep making more posts like that. In reading too much media, I found that I was buying into this outrage capitalism.

Don’t kid yourself: social engineering is real

Of course, there is a more insidious side to media. Not only does reading too much media influence and incite outrage and us vs. them violence and conflicts, but it also controls and directs cultural and behavioural trends.

We live in a world that no longer relies on conservative philosophies or religious documents in the way it once did – but don’t be kidding yourself that nothing took their place. I would strongly argue the media is now filling the void of priests and books and churches and directing people’s thinking, and they’re succeeding.

I always remember hearing a quote from the vice president, Robert Pittman, of Warner speaking of MTV on how he viewed the platform. As far back as 1982, he said of MTV, “At MTV, we don’t shoot for the 14-year-olds — we own them. We will reach 90 percent of them in any given household.”

Did you catch that? The head of programming said he believed he owned teenagers. MTV continues today and has significantly broadened its content offering, mainly known nowadays as another BuzzFeed. More topics like manspreading, racial tension, and sexual diversity are the topics of the day.

All the while you are consuming this content, keep in mind the owners of this company believes he owns you. And based on the behaviour of media outlets in general, this is not a viewpoint exclusive to MTV or Warner companies.

The impact of media on group think is measurable. The New York Times even did a significant feature measuring the shift in views on government, family, and relationships that the Murdoch empire has absolutely shifted.

I remember when I was in university that a fully free newspaper was being given out to everyone called MX. It was a cutdown version of the Courier Mail essentially from the same people. Everyone would read it, and it was pretty good for a while.

But then around that time (2006ish), there was a dramatic shift in news in general. We used to have a “news” section and an “opinion” section in our news, with the news section presenting the exact facts without (much) bias, and the opinion section providing commentary. However around this time and even now, these sections are now completely joined – and many outlets no longer even hide fact this is going on.

I hadn’t questioned the idea of a free newspaper that a company was spending millions of dollars in creating, printing, distributing en masse and marketing, but I probably should have.

If a government did this, we would call it propaganda and an insult to democracy. But when a company does it, we lap it up.

As a parent, I have been particularly interested on what the current drive of media is doing to our young people. Here are some standout facts I’ve discovered about Generation Z – the generation who has grown up during this media shift:

  • Gender theory and fluidity is one of the most topics regularly covered by news outlets. Recent Gallup studies from 2022 have shown the impacts of this with 25% of Generation Z identifying as non-binary. This has been on an upward trend, and as conservative commentator Matt Walsh stated, if these numbers are even half true, this represents a dramatic sexual revolution unlike anything previously observed in history. Even Alfred Kinsey put his famously optimistic estimate at 10% of a generation, and more thorough studies used to put this at about 4.2% even just a few years ago. Social commentators on both the left and the right credit media and societal factors in this shift.
  • Pride has always been a big deal, but even left-leaning LGBTIQ+ activists cite their frustrations with Rainbow Capitalism. This is the tendency for many big organisations (think Body Shop, Levis, Bonds, as well as these media outlets) to heavily push their support of Pride any chance they can get with the agenda of getting more consumers – Generation Z identified as the prime target, and all of these brands doing very well at these times of year.
  • Generation Z was not born during the times of slavery or apartheid, but the media’s constant stoking of racial tensions for clicks and views is increasing the perception and experience of race issues around the world. Some university studies have highlighted that only one racial narrative is being perpetuated throughout media currently and affecting Gen Z’s own experiences, and even more concerning, is that media is intentionally inciting conflict between Black and Asian-American experiences. I personally recall seeing how quickly any post about race would turn into Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter vs. Asian Lives Matter vs. Black Wives Matter, and the numbers of comments and engagement were through the roof.
  • Generation Z is now cited as the most depressed and anxious generation. Research showed they were the least interested in COVID but the most anxious and concerned about it. 90% of Gen Z’ers report high stress levels (wow). I read a powerful piece on Psychology Today highlighting the real factors involved in this increased anxiety and they put it on a few perspectives pushed on them by the media – “You are fragile”, “If you feel it, it must be true”, and “Life is about us vs. them”. Such perspectives create a generation dependent on the very information that is also poisoning it.

I’ve known a few people in advertising and marketing over the years, and they had regularly highlighted to me the practice of social engineering. This is also an increased push in the research on marketing in not just targeting the insecurities of the audience, but pushing to adjust societal beliefs for corporate objectives. News sites and their social media teams are all over this in even which comments and viewpoints they promote or remove.

Media and marketing corporations are undoubtedly fighting for your what you should believe. If like me you were or are reading too much media, you might want to stop and think about where your current belief systems have come from.

Who are you letting speak into your life?

I recently wrote about the question of who are we allowing to teach us about sex. It seems there are so many views about it nowadays, no wonder it’s hard for people to work out what they should be doing in their own relationships.

But beyond sex, it raises a real question about who we are allowing to speak into our lives about anything in general. I know I found myself being affected by reading too much media especially in mood and thinking. It reminded me of how important it is not just to think about what I believe, but where I got a belief from.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important for all of us to be aware of what’s going on in our world. I think it’s way worse to live in a bubble or under a rock and not know the very real issues people are facing.

But with companies paying bllions of dollars for their right and ability to influence the way we think and behave, we’ve gotta wonder who is winning the war for our minds.

I think truth is something that can be found. But unfortunately many people get all their truth now from incredibly biased, unbalanced, corporate sources. Balanced too far one way to the expense of all perspectives on an issue, or even replacing truth about who they are with opinions from companies with an agenda.

Let’s make sure we’re building our house upon the rock and not on the shifting sand of commercialism.

And more than that, I would encourage you to think about how you are contributing to this culture of outrage. I previously did a deepdive on a reality I continue to observe, that Our Obsession With Outrage and Being Triggered is Destroying Society. Are we more known for what we are for, or what we are against? We should be people who are demonstrating an exemplery and a copyable lifestyle, not just living lives constantly tearing down without displaying an alternative.

How about you? Were you reading too much media during COVID? Or before or after? How much should we allow the media to drive our thinking and behaviour?

You Can’t Refuse To Change And Stay Happily Married

I’ve learned that you can’t refuse to change and stay happily married. But change is much more easily said than done.

I've learned that you can't refuse to change and stay happily married
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

“You’re not coming into the bed like that, are you?”, she asked.

Oh boy. This was the start of our new life together. On our honeymoon no less.

“Um, I was planning on it… how come?”. Have I already blown it? What could possibly be wrong… unless… oh no.

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It’s Easy To Be An Absentee Father, Be A Dad Who Stays

I’ve learned it’s really easy to become an absentee father, but if you can be a dad who stays, you can make a profound difference.

Be A Dad Who Stays
Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels (and #DadGoals)

I recently went back through time and revisited my My Top 10 Favourite Movies Ever. Even decades after watching it, one of my favourites is the hit 1997 Jim Carrey film Liar Liar. It’s about a divorced dad who continually lets his son down with empty promises to the point that his son makes a birthday wish meaning Jim’s character can’t lie for 24 hours.

Hilarious in practice, but it is kinda sad in reality.

In truth, there’s a whole bunch of movies in the 90s about absentee dads and many movies like Liar Liar with an attempted message at getting dads to stay, or at least be more present in the lives of their kids. I found the same thing when I was doing a list of Christmas movies or even just thinking about a bunch of older movies and shows I have enjoyed in the past – think Jingle All The Way, Mrs Doubtfire, Click, or even that savagely poignant episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse”.

These and many more aimed at dads in particular with a plea to be present and accessible to their children.

And then as time went on, when TV stopped trying to convey as many overt family values or messages, it became less about being a dad who stays and more about the people who had been left behind by dad’s decisions trying to live with it.

I’ve worked in the IT industry for 15+ years to this point now. And it’s an industry plagued with a lot of people in this boat of choosing career over children, overtime over playtime, respect in business over respect in the home.

Granted, our industry often does necessitate longer hours or super late nights given society’s dependence on technology for mission critical purposes, but it became obvious to me when I was younger that many people – dads in particular – would work far more than they needed to, especially on salaries and projects where all that overtime didn’t amount to a whole lot more actually being delivered.

And I remember as a young man thinking wow, I’ve known so many people growing up who wished their fathers were around more. Some cases a family breakdown meant dad didn’t have full custody and opportunity, but even then you would see some dads still working crazy hours unnecessarily even on their weekend or evenings with the kids. And here they were, hiding in their computer.

Men can be really good at hiding. I think it’s because we actively compartmentalise our lives, whereas women (generally) tend to address everything at the same time. I think this is really handy for certain types of decisions where we need to face things in a more staggered approach – but the obvious downside that TD Jakes points out in He-Motions is we put things in their box, and we just leave it there. Festering. Unaddressed. Not receiving our attention or effort.

That’s okay when it’s a stressful project at work, around the house, or relationally that needs a more measured approach, or for a temporary period of time. But when it’s our children that go in that box, we’re not the dad who stays, we’re the dad who gets hit with the “absent” label.

And then I became a dad myself. And I realised something personally of myself rather than just theoretically that I had seen and researched about absentee fatherism in others – that I too could very, very easily hide from the pressures of fatherhood in my work, my serving, my hobbies, my outings, my whatever.

That instead of being available to help when I knew I could, that I could oh just work a bit later. Or not be available that weekend. Or go out for hours at an important time when I could be helping.

And it was such an equalising realisation that being a father is very confronting and difficult. And I could see in those times when those ideas to stay hidden came up exactly what has happened in so many homes previously. I will say I feel like I have done my best to be as present as possible, but I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been several times when that thought or pressure had built up internally.

It is really, really easy to be an absentee father. We have the opportunity and the societal “acceptance” that we’re not always going to be available. Because so many fathers before us weren’t, right? That’s just what dads do. All the jokes tell us how distant dad is. All the biographies and complicated backstories of real and fictional people tell us that so many others have been in that boat. We all know dad is either at the pub, the golf game, or the office when his son or daughter are at their dance recital or even just for playtime.

But to be a dad who stays… I think that’s where real power is. Possibly even the greatest power we have as men is to buckle up and be present for the whole ride.

Even in today’s society, many secular and religious studies have all confirmed that when dad is absent, everyone suffers. Particularly the children.

Stats from the United States over 2021 a consistently measured increase in absentee fathers being a factor in increased substance abuse, higher incidences of mental health issues, increased risk of going to prison, and higher risks of school dropouts and poverty. And this is not the first year these observations have been made. I’ve read the research of the authors of On Becoming Babywise which showed a strong correlation between dad’s presence in the early years and behavioural issues later on way back in the 80s, and even some more recent statistics from the last few years confirm this to be the case.

Canadian research found that brain development is altered in the early years by the absence of the father. Children of fatherless homes were found to be 5 times more likely to attempt suicide, and 32 times (!!!) more likely to become homeless or runaway.

You can research this for yourself in any country, and the echo chamber of research, stat after stat, story after story, resoundingly confirms that dad being absent is devastating. I still am haunted by the fact that the last verse of the Old Testament is that when the fathers refuse to turn their hearts back to their children, a curse is present. I think these stats confirm just how dire it is when it’s like that.

It can be really hopeless when you realise how devastating a problem we have.

But I take it as a real encouragement and a recogition of just how serious and significant our role and contribution as fathers is.

In a world where it can be hard to feel like you’re really making a difference, by our presence and participation we can improve our children’s brain development and set them up for strength and greatness for their life ahead. Yes it’s utterly terrifying to think how bad the stats are when we aren’t present, but conversely consider how much of an improvement you can make in the lives of your children by showing up and staying present.

But if it were that easy, we’d all be doing it. Here are some factors I think play into the challenge.

The law and custody. American research puts marital breakdown as the leading cause of fatherlessness making up 30% of those fathers considered to be “absent”. In Australia I have talked to so many fathers of various ages even recently who are trying their hardest to be present in the lives of their children in a joint-custody situtation but the law makes it very difficult being geared against men. If you’re in this boat my brother I would urge you to keep fighting to be present, even if isn’t anywhere near as frequent as you would like to be. The data shows us that your sustained presence makes a significant difference, and is worth fighting for.

Embrace, and have a sense of, purpose. I’ve written before looking at even more of the stats around the difference it makes in a man’s life when he has a sense of calling and purpose about him. Even moreso as a father. Even if you’re unsure about every other area of your life, recognise you are called to and are capable of make a marked difference for your children. More in Why Men Need Purpose, Direction, and Income.

Don’t hide. Man I’ve never felt that internal pressure to hide from the stress and pressure of life more than I have since becoming a dad. But I want to be a dad who stays. Myself and all of us need to make sure we’re finding coping strategies and strength that don’t involve us being out 4-5 hours a night and never being present with our children. Not saying you can’t hang out with the boys or keep up an active social life, but as long as the whole family is coming with us on the journey overall.

Toxic masculinity. A real man stands by his kids. We can be so worried about how we appear to people who really don’t care about us at the end of the day. It’s more important to be who we need to be with the people who really need us the most. More in Men and Rape Culture

Deal with the crap. All of us have big issues to deal with, and fatherhood is extremely confronting. It pushes every single big button you have – your relationship with your own parents, how you view your competence, your ability or confidence in earning income, the traits about yourself you never want to pass on to others, and especially how much you love or don’t love yourself. Anger, substance abuse, porn addiciton, lack of self worth – all of these can make being a dad who stays very difficult when you always want to run away from yourself. It’s not too late to start working through these things.

Prioritise your relationship with your partner. A Brisbane psychologist told me a few months ago that it’s very typical in her decades of counselling in cis marriages that when life gets tough, the mum in the relationship will throw herself into raising the child and the dad will throw himself into his other pursuits. You’ll see this all across much of the Internet when dads die inside as their relationship dynamic changes. More than just the dynamic change, much of this can occur around marital angst – be it emotional, sexual, or big disagreements that you haven’t resolved. I would encourage anyone in that boat to seek professional help and/or the help of a support network and friends. I continue to see it and I firmly believe one of the worst things we can do for our marriages is to hide away from others. We all need to live in the light. More thoughts and experiences in 10 Ways To Minimize Fights In Marriage and Love and 8 Things That Kill Your Marriage (If Left Unaddressed).

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My Top 10 Favourite Movies Ever (Revisited)

Everyone has their favourite movies, here are most of mine – these are my top 10 favourite movies ever.

My Top 10 Favourite Movies Ever... for now
Source: New Line Cinema

Now here’s a topic I haven’t revisited in over 5 years. On Sunday night, a bunch of friends and I were running through a lot of our favourite movies. Some people cited the old classics, whilst others favour modern films. It reminded me that it’s high time to revisit that list and see how things have changed over the years.

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7 Ways The Current Generation Isn’t Worse Than Previous Generations

Do young people today get a bad wrap over an idealisation of the past? Here are 7 ways the younger people today aren’t worse than previous generations.

Photo by Alena Darmel from Pexels

If you know me, you know my wife and I absolutely love Gong Cha. Not the milk teas or the tapioca pearls, but the green and alisan teas with a fruit in them. Oooh and Aloe Vera. If you’re shouting, Grapefruit Green Tea or Mango/Lemon Alisan teas no sugar with Aloe Vera you can’t go wrong. So good.

We were out with our young daughter around Southbank over the Christmas break at the store there when I realised something – I’m not going to be able to open this big door at the angle I’m wheeling the pram. What am I going to do? I’m on struggle street. And I’m blocking everyone inside from being able to reach the handle themselves.

A group of young men was walking passed, perhaps early 20s, and one of them saw me struggling with my life choices over by the door and rushed over to open it for us. I hope that young man is blessed beyond belief for seeing a stranger and helping out.

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Christmas Reminds You What You Wish Life Was Like

It’s the best and the worst part of the festive season – Christmas reminds you what you wish life was like.

Photo by Alex Urezkov from Pexels

Well, here we are again. It’s Christmas season, the shops have been craaaaaaaaaazy this year, the Carols are blaring, and all those December movies are in full swing.

And amidst all the idealism and the feeling of perfect portrayals when it comes to friends, love, family and generosity, it brings with it a sucker punch of a reality check unlike no other time of year.

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