This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
27.08.20 / Non Fiction / Sphere (Little Brown) / Hardback / 304pp / 978-0751574746
About Born To Be Mild
A handful of years ago I moved with my wife to a house on a quiet street in a quiet town and lay quietly in a room for a long time.
I used to love an adventure, and I had jobs on magazines (remember magazines?) which provided the opportunity for plenty of them, but when I hit my thirties I started to become increasingly afraid of the world, until I was too frightened to even go outside at all. And I had no need to go outside: I’d somehow wangled it so my job was mostly tweeting, which meant no colleagues, no bosses, no office, no alarm clock, no deadlines . . . just me, my phone and my social media feeds. Doesn’t sound too healthy, does it? It wasn’t.
Everything went bad.
Rob Temple runs a social-media empire from the comfort of his sofa. Living the dream! But what happens when a lack of colleagues, bosses and alarm clocks means that your sofa, and the four walls of your very quiet living room, become your whole world?
In this tender and life-affirming memoir, Rob explores what it will take for him to become a little less Bear (Pooh) and a little bit more Bear (Grylls), and how mild-mannered, anxious rule-followers can get their own share of (gentle) adventure from time to time.
“I’m thirty-five. It’s about time I became interested in something, got some purpose and direction, instead of blindly bumbling around my life as if it’s someone else’s kitchen. I’ve taken to skulking through life, quietly puzzled, hesitant to make a fuss, an intern in my own existence. But what to do? There are so many things. The world is my oyster. I hate oysters. They make me sick.” Rob Temple, Born To Be Mild
Rob Temple’s Born To Be Mild is an impressive attempt at answering a possibly life changing question: Can socially awkward, nervous and anxious people still go adventuring and have a good time? Rob embarks on fifty adventures (both big and small) to pull himself out of a life of solitude he has created for himself to try and discover what constitutes an enjoyable experience or, at the very least, where on the line between comfort and conformity sits a good time. In forcing himself out of the house, from his very restrictive comfort zone, and into the world to experience what it has to offer, Rob Temple becomes a paragon of anxious exploration for all those people (myself included) who continue to cancel their lives due to mental health concerns.
Rob Temple faces many different adventures during the course of the book, such as travelling to Barcelona and Berlin, learning yoga, rediscovering chilli sauce, airbnb-ing (kind of a word) and haggling for dodgy looking ornaments with mixed results. Born To Be Mild is a personal journal more than anything. Rob invites us into his life, letting us see through his eyes, experience his own reflections and philosophising while giving us the opportunity to apply his outlook to our own lives.
“When I get a bit morose about… stuff, my solution, albeit a rather crude and sometimes ineffective one, has always been to drown those thoughts, to ignore them, to hide them away somewhere in my mind, back where they came from. Fingers in ears, lalala I can’t hear you. Flip the thoughts over like wine stains on cushions. The stains are still there of course, there’s no doubting them, but they don’t always have to spoil the room. I sweep so many things under the rug that it’s nearly touching the ceiling. I know repression in general isn’t all that healthy (or is it?) but sometimes you have to just crush your thoughts before they crush you.” Rob Temple, Born To Be Mild
If you are looking for an advice piece that will guide you, hold your hand and explain ways to deal with mental health problems head on then this is not that type of book. It is a mostly hilarious, sometimes distressing, interior monologue of a man setting out to bypass his defeatist nature and symptoms of severe anxiety to live his life on the mild side.
When I say this book is hilarious, I mean it! Rob has a fantastic perspective on the world around him and he expresses his musings into words in the best ways. His writing is funny, relatable and extremely quotable. I guess that’s why his Twitter page, Very British Problems, is so popular. It is clear why Rob got into journalism as his writing is very stimulating, quirky, upbeat and packed with witty observations. It is also clear that Rob has had his share of trouble and it sits underneath quite a lot of what he says, present but not often referenced. Plenty of his adventures into the world are successful and provide opportunities for laughs, eye-rolling and facepalming in embarrassment. His time in the flotation tank imaging he was a pork pie was brilliant. Some of the trips are disastrous and end leaving Rob worse for wear such as an attempt to return to living in London for a month that ends short after stress induced blackouts take him over the edge.
Born To Be Mild is a mixing pot of experiences that includes zany humour, hardcore cringy embarrassment, poignant reflections on mental health and a shed load of interesting experiences that a lot of people can connect with in important ways. I don’t do a lot of things in my life because I am socially awkward and anxious about new experiences. Born To Be Mild has taught me a few things and the two most revealing elements Rob Temple has provided me were that adventures are better with friends and that anything can happen, you just need to show up.
I have barely any negative points to this book. Sometimes the writing veers off into streams of rambling but it kind of suits the subject matter when it happens so it wasn’t too bad. I would say that it goes on just a bit too long for my liking. That’s about it though. The only thing that could have made it better was an actual foreword by Barrack Obama. I thoroughly appreciated Born To Be Mild. I picked up the book for one reason and stayed for so many others. Adventures are a vital part of life and I shouldn’t be missing out. There are book conventions and places I want to see and take my family too and Rob Temple has reminded me that anxiety doesn’t have to ruin things, it just shifts my perspective on certain aspects.
Born To Be Mild has left me with food for thought (and some images I can’t unsee) and I highly recommend it as a fantastic read that is another step in the right direction for people battling mental health issues and those who live with and care for them too.
About Rob Temple
Rob Temple is a journalist and founder of the @SoVeryBritish Twitter account, which now has more than five million followers, and a consultant on the official Channel 4 Very British Problems series. Originally from Peterborough, he moved from South London to the countryside to provide more storage space for his rapidly expanding collection of inedible hot sauces and to be alone with his thought(s). He’s not that keen on hot drinks but is fine with just water if that’s okay?