• Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Aug 18

High School movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. Or maybe just a pleasure, as I'm not sure I feel all that guilty about it. I especially love the ones where you know the whole story within five minutes or, even better, just by looking at the poster. There is one thing that always crosses my mind when I watch these films, and that is what I would do, who I would be, if I were a character in one of them.

My teens were like many people's teens, coloured by wanting to fit in, wanting to be cool, or wanting people to think you're cool because you don't try to be cool. That teenage need to be yourself when you have no idea who you are. The feeling that life will be over once you exit that building for the last time with grades you worried about too much and great expectations of what is to come.

I was a poet and a song writer, but unlike that main character in that teen drama, I was no protege. I didn't spend every waking moment writing and reading. I actually didn't enjoy reading that much until I was 13 and after that I read, and still read, very slowly. The books I read at that time, I hardly remember, because I was so distracted when I read them. I was more concerned with wanting to have read the book, rather than enjoying the experience of reading it.

What that quirky, nerdy girl in the movies always has is dedication. She's all consumed with whatever it is she is passionate about. As much as I think it's unhealthy to be all consumed by one thing, I do catch myself wondering what I could have achieved, if I had that dedication. What could I have experienced during my university years, had I been a more dedicated student? What could I have gone on to do? You never see the quirky lead girl binging four hours of Netflix or scrolling mindlessly for hours on end. Of course that's mainly because it would make for a very dull movie.

"Why not run into the sea with your clothes on?"

So the thought I was left with after this evening's teen flick watch, was what makes me think I'm too old for that now? Why can't I find that dedication ten years later? After all, I know much more about who I am, what I want and what brings me joy now. So it urged me to start those quirky teen flick lead habits. Dancing on my own, when no one (not even a camera crew and a director) is watching, wearing what I like, dedicating my time to the things that truly matter to me. Expressing myself and carrying myself with the confidence that was nowhere to be found in 2010 and the fearlessness I had in 2001. All the while still scrolling and binging because let's not kid ourselves.

I was a songwriter who couldn't sing. I couldn't even tell if my guitar was in tune or not. And according to the teen flick character description, that quirky girl secretly has an amazing voice that she was naturally born with. I've found my voice later on, and who says that's too late? No one. Too late for what exactly? In our teens we think life ends at 25. Everything seems like the end of the world. I'm 28 now and feeling like I'm just now getting to know myself, while also knowing very well that that will be a life long process. (Also aware of how young 28 is).

I made a list when I was 25 of 30 things I'd like to do before I turn 30. They are mainly travel ideas, learning goals and goals around music and writing. I've achieved some of them, and some I've yet to get around to. It doesn't matter to me if I never finish the list, or if I do so when I'm 37. I love writing things down and making lists, so I'll probably write a 40 before 40, and a 70 before 70 too. We live with ourselves our whole lives, so why do we feel nostalgic over time past? Who we were some number of years ago? (That could be a whole other post.) Why do we feel we're too old for some things or like we need to get certain things done by some arbitrary age?

I often get stressed after watching one of these films, or a TV show where someone younger than me has achieved so much more than I. The stress manifests in this idea that I haven't done enough yet, and that I'm not doing enough now, when in fact I am exactly where I need to be. I am growing at my own pace. We all are. So let's give ourselves the space and love and patience to do just that.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

I recently had a conversation with my counsellor which sparked a long train of many thoughts. We spoke about two very distinctive types of conversation and it reminded me how much I love them. I have touched on this before. (see the post "Conversations With Strangers" from a while back!). I suppose paying someone to have conversations with me is quite a telling factor in my love of deep conversation.

First, we spoke about lego blocks. These are conversations where each sentence is thought out before it is spoken, at least to a certain degree. Some of us (myself included) are not great at completely thinking through things before we say them, but for the sake of the analogy, lego block conversations are thought out. They are conversations where you’re telling a story or relaying information. I often find myself in these descriptive lego blocks, we all do. Small talk falls under this category, but so do most other communication.

Photo: Fredrik André Fongen

The opposition that came to my mind when speaking to my counsellor was watercolour. Mainly because I’m quite terrible at painting with watercolour and therefore find it out of my control. These conversations are explorations rather than dialogues. Sentences are made as they are uttered and cohesion is seldom a factor. The first word may have nothing whatsoever to do with the last. This is where we truly get to know each other, and ourselves. Rather than telling a story, we explore experiences in the space that is created. The colours run into each other and blend. That doesn't happen with lego blocks. Unless maybe melting is involved, so let's not go there.

Lego blocks come with instructions. Watercolour, at least for me, starts out as an idea in my head and the colours on the paper look nothing like it. In conversation this happens in the most wonderful way. Lego blocks are necessary, but to me, so is watercolour. We need to know how to build, but also how to express freely. We need structure and fluidity, at least I know I do.

Watercolour conversations are challenging and painful by nature. That is what happens when we delve deeper into ourselves and each other. They often occur after one too many whiskies around dawn, when sleep might seem like a better idea. They are the catalyst for change. Deep explorations let us learn each other and teach us who we are. Sometimes in that space we even change our minds about things. It is in these conversations I've experienced "Oh yeah, you're right, I never thought of it that way." The hardest decisions in my life have always been made easier through these conversations. My choice to travel, my choice of study, my move to Scotland, my break up, and everything that has led to the happiness I currently feel, I owe to watercolour conversations.

My family moved a lot through my childhood, and I have continued to do the same in my twenties. Home has therefore been a difficult concept for me to grasp (something I may come back to in a later post), but I do feel at home in watercolour conversations. I will cling to them until our eyes hurt from FaceTiming for five hours, until the bottles are empty and we fall asleep on the sofa and until my friends tell me "right, we really need to go to bed now."

Mess, unpredictability and discovery. It is where I find my closest friends. It is where I found love. It is where I find myself.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 8

I just logged into my Wix account (my website editor) for the first time in months. Many months. And I had a read through what I wrote in my "About" section" when I first started this project. Musician, writer, Millennial, traveller, knitter. Those are words I use to describe myself. Of course the Millennial thing won't ever change, and I doubt the others will either, but in the past year those parts of me have been harder to access, travelling in particular. But I also feel more like myself than ever.

Before the first lock down, a relationship ended. A relationship in which I moulded myself to fit someone else's narrative. In conversations with my counsellor, I have found that I've been doing that for most of my life. For a long time I wasn't really myself, but rather a version of myself that I thought people wanted me to be. The version that would cause the least upset, in my mind. This strategy failed me and resulted in depression after depression. Suppressing yourself is uncomfortable and awkward. It is soul destroying. A bird is not born to be caged, as it turns out.

I don't think I'm out of the woods yet, but I do see the clearing ahead. Back in March 2020, I discovered that I needed to be true to myself. As much as that sounds like an inspirational Instagram post (insert photo of bare feet on the beach) it is what saved me. And hey, I love being barefoot on the beach. So I moved. And after six weeks of filling a friend's home with bin bags full of my possessions, I moved into an unfurnished flat. A clean slate. A blank canvas. A year later, I sit on my colourful sofa, surrounded by my plants, books and instruments. I was able to fill this space myself. That seems so banal, and obvious, but what happened was that I created a space I love. I don't think there is a colour not represented in this place.

I created a space that I love in a lock down. I'm a Millennial. We share things. We love to share things. If it's not on Instagram, did it really happen? This space I've created has hardly been seen by other people, and to me that is a special thing. It means I have done this solely for myself. That is a big deal for someone who has spent over 20 years people pleasing. I sit here, a year on, feeling so grateful for this space. And feeling grateful that it exists for me. Realising that I exist for me.

This is the most I have written in a long time, this blog post. I define myself as a writer, so not writing for an extended period of time feels wrong. But as much as I love writing, I am still myself if I don't write. Writing that felt weird. Especially as I have, time and time again, written "I feel like myself again" in journals when I've come out of a non-writing period. I don't have to write to have value. I don't have to produce things to deserve my life. I don't need narrative to exist.

What I will do, is produce things, write things, create things, because doing so brings me joy. (Also dread and fear and despair and confusion and self doubt, but that's another blog post for another time.) I have written new songs in the last wee while and with it, I've found motivation and inspiration. I'm finding myself more and more comfortable in my own voice, and in my own skin. Music has also been difficult in lock down. I play bass, which is pretty lonely when there's no band to play with. Safe to say, I will never again take live music for granted. Nor playing with other people.

Words can be wonderful, but also limiting. I've always leaned on words, on narrative, to make sense of the world, and myself. Who am I? Words like musician and writer have answered that question. Sometimes I can't find the right words, or I run through a labyrinth of words to find a sentence that fits what I'm trying to say. Sometimes I will be unstructured and sometimes my point won't come across. But I'll write and talk and create regardless. I'll be myself independent of the words I have used to define me. I'm done editing myself to the point of getting nowhere. It is in that freedom that I feel free to create for the joy of creating. It is in that space I am free to exist.

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