Be self-loving, not selfish

Hey all, I just read through a scrap doc I wrote a few weeks back after a long night. It somehow feels important to share it, in case anybody feels a little bit ‘bleurgh’ about the world right now.

It’s time to write again, and whilst I still have faith in the buoyant optimism of my last post, I find myself picking up pen and paper (not literally, in this case) only when I feel compelled by frustration or sadness.

Today is a grey day, reminding me of polystyrene, or disused factories. There’s a flicker of mortality in the air – not in a macabre way, though. It’s rather a mortality of the mind, the soul, that I see when I look through the window.

And why do I feel like this? Likely from a night of little sleep. But, more relevant to the matter at hand, for various reasons yesterday I was made bitter. I felt old in my skin, and I felt unwanted by one whom I’ve called my closest friend for years.

But, as is so often the case, I have a choice now: let it bother me, or don’t.

I know I have my life ahead of me. Anybody who decides to attach a particular priority to one year – a dreamy age where all is achieved and nothing regretted – is a fool. Life is not a competitive sport, it’s a fun run. We do what we can, strive to be our best, but know that each and every one of us has a different reason for running as they do.

I know I did nothing wrong yesterday, and didn’t deserve to feel depressed. So, I am refusing to take it. Let the world pout all it wants, I am sure of myself and my dignity. All that’s left for me is to forge my own road ahead; be self-loving, not selfish; pay no mind to how the earth spins around me as I strive to be happy with myself. I’ve spent far too much of my life giving people – albeit, often close friends – far too much consideration. Let them think what they think. If I’m a bad guy, I’m sure somebody will let me know.

Career Wake-Up Call

So, I just got off the phone with an old expert in the field of my dream job – a rare books librarian. The half-hour conversation was certainly useful, but if I’m honest, I spent quite a large portion of it squirming in my seat. As I tumbled over my words, admitting sheepishly to what was quickly feeling like an interviewer that I could not remember the meaning of ‘incunabulum’, I felt completely out of my depth (it’s an early printed book, by the way – printed before 1501, one of the first wave of printed texts. And I knew that!)

I’m aware that my self-perception is skewing what was a good talk (I knew what EEBO and ECBO were, as well as who the first European printer was!) but I can’t help feeling that this is a haughty, specialised area of work and no matter how academic my interests are, I’m simply too rough around the edges. I don’t know Latin. My history degree is only a BA. I didn’t even go to a grammar school.

But, even as I write, I’m deciding to say ‘Screw that!’ The world is our oyster, and I want this job. I’ve got some great tips from this experience, and a fire under my backside which will encourage me to, as an example, keep up the Latin classes. Anything is possible.

 

Personal Professional
Finish two ongoing poems. Complete PID assignment.
Finish reading ‘The Beautiful and Damned’. Track down text recommendations AND complete Latin tutorials.
Ongoing
Make any c. writing notes in diary.
Come up with more personal motivators.

Dusting off

“”Yes,” said Maggie. “It is with me as I used to think it would be with
the poor uneasy white bear I saw at the show. I thought he must have
got so stupid with the habit of turning backward and forward in that
narrow space that he would keep doing it if they set him free. One
gets a bad habit of being unhappy.”” (Eliot, The Mill on the Floss)

I may well have cited this quote on here before – it’s one I return to occasionally in my life. Even if I have, however, it does no harm to repeat it.

Habits can be innocuous and silly, but they can also form some of the staple foundations of our… personalities? I’m not sure that’s the right word – surely our characters are made of deeper stuff than biting nails, gambling or cigarettes? – but they do have a significant impact on how the outside world views us. Even if we manage to hide them from all others, they can tinge our self-perceptions and, what’s more, our self-worth.

I certainly feel that a lot of the aspects of our lifestyles which make us unhappy stem from such habits. Indeed, anxiety is apparently little more than a neurological ‘habit’ of releasing particular chemicals from the brain in particular scenarios, resulting in particular responses to triggers. I’m not at all arguing that a problem as complex as mental health can be waived by ‘breakin’ the habit’. But fighting those urges which leave us disappointed yet famished, still unsatisfied but ever more discontent with who we are, may help with the daily battles many of us face.

With this in mind, I’m dusting myself off and scouting around to find my key motivators. They might be familiar, lifetime partners, or new posts in the World Wide Web. Either way, I hope to post some of them up here, along with a couple of thoughts, in the coming weeks. Oh, and I’ll try my damnedest to avoid anything drenched in trite, clickbait-esque drivel (sorry, a bit of useless cynicism there – a terrible habit!)

Above all else, I believe in using the advice of others in supporting emotional well-being. But the opinions of some can be a risky means of relief. Take my posts with a pinch of salt, I beg you – they’re only my thoughts, after all.

 

Personal Professional
Make some plans for Lisbon. Complete essay.
Finish editing a poem. Write up a sketch plan for upcoming report.
Ongoing
Make any c. writing notes in diary.
Come up with some personal motivators.

Yet more resolutions

It’s been a strange few weeks; I feel that the use of this blog for myself (and any others – ha!) might be almost dried up. Whether it’s money, the future, or simply making the best of life, many silly things have been wrestling my mind lately. I’ve not had the headspace to write here properly, let alone set my weekly targets – but they’re coming back, I swear.

Speaking of resolutions, today is the 17th May… we’re already almost halfway through 2017, and what have I done? Well, I’ve had a poem published (albeit by a small publisher); I’ve been to Japan(!) and Belfast; I’ve recently run a triathlon and managed to get somewhere near my desired fitness level; I’ve read quite a lot and trundled on with my MA; I’ve strengthened friendships. But is this enough? Not nearly. What else is coming?

Well, I need to finish the first year of my MA; do more volunteer work (especially around August after I… move to a new flat; go to Lisbon; focus on my writing and get more published; start a new blog about special collections and complete a CPD course (Advanced Rare Books Librarianship); run another event for charity in the autumn. What else? Well, we’ll just have to see.

Recurring dreams

[The following post contains a dangerous amount of clichés. Readers with weak stomachs should not continue].

 

I’ve not written for a while, and I apologise to myself. I’ve been buried by a lot of nothings – stupid, really, but the nothings are the first to bite, and always stick around up to breaking point. They’re slow killers, but killers all the same, perhaps.

There’s so much noise at the moment, we’ve all heard it, and heard others talk about it, and argue about it – you see, we’ve heard it all? Every wonderfully dull particle of our lives is pretty much in sight, if we want. But we’re all becoming so bored of those lives. How many times can you follow the same routine, the same thought patterns you’ve worn through? Our identities are clogged with all the stuff, but what is the alternative?

Just remember – which memory do you want holding your hand, the last visitor at your bedside?

 

Have any more shamelessly airy advice? Share it; it’s worth keeping in mind, you know.

Jet-lagged but positive

[Excuse the dodgy syntax/structure here, feeling quite sleepy]

Having come back from 10 days travelling in Japan, I feel… refreshed?

The trip was incredible, busy but exhilarating, and gave me a chance to disconnect from the anxiety triggers of ‘normal’ life. I think Japan in particular was a great place to visit, because there was a palpable sense of… contentment(?) amongst the people I saw and spoke with – even just in passing! That’s probably not the right word, but it feels fairly accurate.

I realise more fully now that I’ve been trying to compensate for insecurities by overloading myself with things which apparently ‘need’ doing, whether that’s the gym, assignments or personal tasks. I believe this is still a good way to live, but missing targets was a cause of panic. In fact, the one drawback during Japan was the intensity of my itinerary. Note to self, next time, don’t do so much in so little time.

Despite feeling like I’ve learned something from the experience, already, 12 hours after landing in the UK, I feel that suffocating need to be ‘perfect’ again, and the simultaneous, overwhelming conviction that it’s not possible. I’m going to persevere, though – we need to be happy with being interpreted, misconstrued, forgotten – we cannot control minds. Focus on what faces you – the rest are just brownie points, and too many make you sick.

Pesky nerves

Like almost everybody else, I have to tackle nerves from time to time. I don’t mean anxiety, as such – at least not my usual, ‘slow-burning’ experience of anxiety, the kind that surfaces when I’m not busy. Here, I’m talking about adrenaline – the intense energy which takes over when you’re put on the spot, say, during a meeting presentation.

I find I don’t panic in these situations, as I do when I convince myself I have no future, no friends, blah blah blah. In fact, at the time of speaking I feel good. Nevertheless, even a fairly small-scale presentation (around 20-25 people) normally leaves my armpits sweatier than a bog in summer. I know of some people who have it worse, who can’t get up in front of people at all, and I think I have my teaching experience to thank for my mental confidence when public speaking. But my body tells a different story.

This pesky perspiration wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that, after said presentations, conference talks, workshops, I feel exhausted. I just want to sleep, and, more worryingly, my temporary fatigue gives rise to negative emotions and thoughts: ‘Why were you so worked up?’ ‘What’s the matter with you?’ ‘Why can’t you be an adult about all this?’

The infuriating paradox is that, as said above, I am a good public speaker – I’m articulate, I make jokes, I smile in the right places. When teaching, my mentors commented on my apparent confidence, and the same has been said to me several times since leaving Teach First. So what’s going on?

The answer, from me, is that really I don’t know. But I suspect that my mind has gotten used to ‘hushing’ a response which my body is still very much influenced by. I’m not as ‘okay’ as I believe; rather, I’m used to being nervous, instead of eliminating the source of the nerves. So, in the interest of protecting my colleagues’ poor noses, I’m outlining three important (if a little over-used) tips on keeping the adrenaline within control – hopefully they can help some of you!

  1. People, especially colleagues, want information, not a performance (unless that’s your line of work). It’s silly to focus on yourself when you’re discussing the data analytics of your clients, or the feedback of a recent survey. Shift your mindset to prioritise the info – it’ll take some of the heat off your self-esteem!
  2. The majority of people are more capable than they think they are. Cliched, I know, but I choose to believe this. Stop looking for what’s going to go wrong, or at least give equal weight to what you’re doing well.
  3. Breathe. Obvious, I know, but there’s a reason why yoga instructors always seem so cool. Without proper respiration, you’re working at pretty shitty capacity. The trick is to balance this with the task at hand, without losing focus on either. I like to imagine myself through an x-ray lens, looking at my heart and making sure, visually, that it’s keeping steady. Weird, I know, but the point is, you do what you need to!