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.

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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!

Getting back on the horse

I don’t know what’s been wrong with me, what is still probably wrong with me, and what has kept me from writing all this time. I do know, however, that I’m ready to think about it.

For longer than I can plot, I’ve felt a recurring fatigue, a sort of listlessness. It’s often not obvious – I don’t yawn every time I open my mouth, and I can still smile and laugh – but it’s there, always. I’m just quite good at hiding it.

I’ve felt that the world costs too much energy. The daily barrage of bomb scares and political faux pas, it’s just so exhausting not screaming every time they appear. Every step along the same old morning commute, every muffled cough on the train, the Big Issue salesman on the street corner, the e-mails, the conversations, the haunting sense of waste which lingers even when I fill my weekends to bursting with panic-fuelled social activities… it’s knackering.

I don’t have an answer to this, right now. But I think that’s okay. Looking back over this blog, I always seem eager to plug any holes in the boat, without really getting to the bottom of why they’re there. I’m just desperate not to sink, so think if I keep myself busy, they’ll fix themselves. But (as any psychology student can tritely tell you) anxiety isn’t a sustainable motivator. It needs to be something more, something happier – more comfortable, less frantic.

 

Personal Professional
Redraft one poem (for pub.) Redraft Literature Review (MA)
Finalise Japan plans

AND

Create savings chart

Review Nat. Archive Latin tutorials 1-5
Ongoing
Make any c. writing notes in diary.
Read criticism for each text I read.

Barely an update

It’s been a real struggle mustering the energy to write on here – a struggle I’ve obviously been losing against.

I have little to say, except I’m still keeping myself sane through the long, empty work hours. I’ll write again, properly, soon.

The old love affair: being true to my ‘hobbies’

Hi all, apologies that once again my little Carnegie post has been put on the back-burner; for whatever reason, I’m just not feeling impelled to write about it yet. I will do though, when it feels right. On top of that, I’ve still yet to finish ‘Meetings’, and haven’t looked up publishing careers as I’ve been telling myself to do for ages – sorry! The reality is that this last one was really just a professional ‘filler’, but for what it’s worth, I have a resolution this week I’m determined to stick with (he says, as the crowd sighs with impatience – I’m quite fickle, apparently).

I really am determined with this one though. I was speaking with my partner last night about why I at times feel… wasted. I think it’s always been obvious to me that literature and academic study have something to do with it; for as long as I can remember, these have been a major cornerstone of my identity, what makes me feel ‘good’. But what I hadn’t realised, until Dritan helped me out, was that I’m not committing myself enough to these passions, if I really want to feel satisfied that they’re being recognised as just that. I picked up a collection of John Donne last week, along with a short critical work, and since then I’ve been eagerly thumbing the pages, feeling like a student again – feeling good (hence the slightly neglected de Hamel, but I’m getting there!)

So, once again in the overarching spirit of 2017 – to seize happiness – I’m going to start setting aside real time for tapping into these passions. It will be difficult, with my ongoing MA studies, my social life and just the general bits-and-bobs of living, but what choice do I have? I’m really quite excited…

So, my plan is to split this vague idea of doing ‘literary’ stuff into three strands:

  1. Reading literary work (esp. poetry) AND criticism (Luckily, I already do this, but what’s more important is…
  2. Finding a forum or group to engage in discussions about this work.
  3. Picking up creative writing again, with more direction.

Fitting this into my routines shouldn’t be too tricky (he says, fufufu). For target 1, I plan to simply make sure for each piece of work I enjoy, I’ll read at least an article analysing it, instead of just putting it down forever. I also want to consider writing academically, you know, for fun…

For number 2, I’ve already found a couple of societies (Royal Soc., Poetry Soc.) which I unfortunately can’t really afford to pay to join right now, but will do at the end of the month. For now, sad as it might sound, I’ve made the Guardian Books site my homepage – it does have a lot of stuff on there!

As for target number 3, instead of scribbling work on any hands, post-its or dirty paper I can find, I’m going to be more conscious with my notes; not long ago I was doing this with a dedicated creative writing notebook. I need to make a direct effort to collate my thoughts in here, in order to feel like I’m getting somewhere with that strange dream of ‘writing’.

So, with your permission, I’m going to ditch the ‘publishing’ target for now (see below), and instead set ones revolving around these new targets. Obviously they can’t take them all up, but there’s space for at least something related to literature each week.

Sorry, I know this seems rambling – the reason I’m writing all this is because I want to feel true to myself, to what I care about. In the daily humdrum of things we ‘have’ to do, it’s easy to lose sight of what actually makes you want to wake up in the morning. For me, this is one of those things. I’m choosing to prioritise it.

Personal Professional
Finish ‘Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts’ Complete draft of MA sketch, and plan of report.
Write a short piece on Donne (no more than 300 words) Complete Nat. Archive Latin tutorials 2-5
Ongoing
Make any c. writing notes in diary.
Read criticism for each text I read.

 

Holding on to your cause

Another quick one – I’m afraid I don’t have my Carnegie post yet, but it’s forthcoming!

To follow up from my last post, I’ve come to my senses re: my friend’s amazing development. As if to challenge my resolution to be positive, on Friday night I had a bit of an onslaught from some tipsy acquaintances on my choice of my career. But I know I have the answer; I’ve had it for weeks.

Personally, I need a cause to be happy. I think I see that clearly now. Whether this is a universal rule, I’m not prepared to say, but for me, having something to work towards is fundamental to my self-esteem. In reality, though, we can’t get promotions every time we feel blue about our prospects. We need to create the opportunities to feel good (opportunities like researching current trends in children’s literature prizes!)

In a sense, so long as I have a cause, something I dedicate my hard-work, my spirit and intellect to, nobody can claim I am not successful. I think I’d be happy to assure a friend the same about themselves.

Personal Professional
Finish ‘Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts’ Continue reading up on publishing careers (see UKSG)
Organise something ELSE for upcoming birthday (second friend group ;D) Complete OU Intro to Latin course

A quick jump-start

Just a quick one to keep the blog breathing – I’ll post in more detail (on children’s reading, in response to the recent Carnegie long-list) in a couple of days.

This afternoon, I had some good news from a friend – they’re moving on in the world, both physically and professionally. And whilst I’m happy for them, I can’t help but feel anxious – as per, I’m beginning to look down on myself.

In the spirit of my last post, however, I’ve contacted Aberystwyth. Next week is the conference, and I’m getting through my readings for the week (the weekend trip to Belfast has forced me to carry some targets over – researching publishing and finishing one of my books). I have to believe I can get where I want, no matter what challenges I need to rise to.

Let’s get to it.