Tag Archives: achievement

QUALIFIED

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you doing?

After an absolutely glorious run of preview performances, Tumbling After (the show I’m directing) is now ready to undergo some nips, tucks and general tidying before we take it to the Edinburgh Fringe.  I’d like to say an enormous, heartfelt, cuddly thank you to everyone who has contributed their time, money and energy in order to get this show together.  It has been and continues to be an absolute blast.

Putting on a show is a very demanding process, and it tends to rob you of free time (and clean clothes, sleep, a social life and verbal dexterity).  Now that previews are done, I’ve managed to catch up on most of these things, so I’m free to tell you all about my exciting new project: QUALIFIED.

I guarantee you that you could hand me my best friend’s CV and, apart from the name at the top, I wouldn’t recognise a single syllable of it.  This is because the things that we are most proud of, or that our friends know us for, are not necessarily the things that employers need to know.  Our CVs are not just edited descriptions of our lives: they are censored, trimmed and tarted up to make us seem like consummate professionals who’ve never experienced a moment’s uncertainty.  This is all fine for the world of work, but in real life we are so much more than the sum of our A Levels.

Real-life qualifications are definitely something to be proud of, but I don’t think they mean anything when compared with everything else we can achieve as human beings.  The love you show to people, the difficult situations you endure and the challenges you rise to meet are all integral to your identity, but how on earth do you fit them into “hobbies and interests”?  We’re qualified for all sorts of things that have nothing to do with work.

With that in mind, I have decided to start a series of interviews on this blog, asking people what they are most proud of in their lives.  Some of them will, I’m sure, be CV suitable – but I’m really looking forward to finding out about some of the less employment-relevant ones.  First up will be fashion designer and all-round wonder woman Cieranne Kennedy-Bell of CKB Vintage – look out for that interview on Friday.

I’d love to hear from people from all walks of life, so if you’d like to get involved with this project, please leave me a comment on this post and feel free to spread the word!

Have a gorgeous Thursday.  Your hair looks tremendous, by the way.

Growing Pains

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Happy Friday, lovely reader!  How are you?  Shall I stick the kettle on?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we don’t know what we’re doing.  This applies to all aspects of life, including Zumba classes (left step right step turn step jump step trip over your own shoelace step) and the bigger questions like “where is my life going?”, “how do I find happiness?” and “will I ever achieve my goals?”

I had a small meltdown this week about those questions – although it turns out that Zumba is actually a lot of fun, and it’s ok to fudge your way through the trickier moves – and turned to a friend of mine who is in a similar position, i.e. in his mid-twenties with a passionate desire to succeed but no clear idea of how to do so.  When we boiled the issue down to its essentials, we decided that no one knows what they’re doing at our age, and that we’re not really supposed to.  This made me ask another scary question: “when are we supposed to know what we’re doing?”

We have all been brought up to believe that the older, wiser and taller people around us know what is going on: teachers, parents and older siblings have all made it clear to us that they can be trusted to know what they’re doing.  This led us to believe that one day we will know what we’re doing, too.  But when is this elusive day of understanding?  At what age should we be waking up and saying to ourselves, “I’m pretty sure I’ve got the hang of this ‘life’ thing now”?

I have friends my age (or thereabouts) who are teachers, home-owners, paramedics, married, producers, in possession of a pension plan, and even parents.  They are, as far as the world is concerned, sorted.  But internally they worry just as much as people who are unattached, students, renting flats, between jobs or between life ambitions.  In many cases, their external lives have little or no relevance to their internal persona.  My own mother, who has five grown-up children and a life-long teaching career, admits that she doesn’t feel like an adult most of the time.  (I can believe that.  For starters, her ridiculous sense of humour completely belies her actual age.)

So what hope do we have, if our apparently grown-up friends and actually grown-up parents do not think of themselves as sorted, respectable adults?  Are we doomed to feel a bit lost and uncertain for the rest of our lives?

The short answer is: yes.  The long answer is: yes, but that is actually a very, very good thing.  When we have everything that we want in life, we stop looking for anything else.  We stop pursuing new ambitions, pushing ourselves to achieve and chasing after our goals.  Not knowing what we’re doing is scary, but it also motivates us to keep looking, and to keep finding things to learn about and enjoy in the world around us.  Essentially, happiness and feeling ‘sorted’ is fine, but it doesn’t open your mind or make you grow.  Uncertainty, ambition and passion make you keep going.

It almost doesn’t matter whether we find the elusive feeling of knowing what we’re doing.  As long as we keep looking for it, we will be learning new skills, travelling to new places, meeting new people and trying to be the best possible versions of ourselves.  Pursuing that feeling is what shapes your attitudes and makes you a fascinating person, and if you really think about it, being interesting is much more important than being a ‘proper grown-up’.

Right, kettle’s boiled now.  Could you grab the milk out of the fridge, please?

10 Mind-Changes Every Twenty-Something Girl Has On A Daily Basis

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Hello and happy Friday, you stunning creature!  I hope that this week has been particularly good to you.

A couple of days ago, I saw this post about 31 thoughts all girls in their twenties have on a daily basis.  I completely agree with practically everything on this list – especially numbers 9 and 28 – but I think that there’s also a lot of mind-changing to be taken into account.

We are constantly exposed to new information and opinions, courtesy of things like the internet and the people in our lives.  We are also of an age when our youthful ideas are battling for house room in our heads with the slowly-creeping increase of grown-up sensibilities, so our thoughts tend to pinball around a bit.  Bearing these facts in mind, here is a list of before and after thoughts that a lot of girls in their twenties have on a daily basis:

Before – Those trousers are hideous.  Who on earth would buy them?
After – Ah.  So apparently those trousers are actually in fashion this season.  Shit, I should get some.

Before – I’m young and spritely and living the dream!  Long-term health issues are still decades away!
After – I’ve had that pain in my side for over a week now.  I must be dying.

Before – I have GOT to stop spending money.
After – Ooh, ASOS are having a sale…

Before – I can still go clubbing, right?  Right.
After – I have never felt so old.  I cannot believe that people born in 1996 are allowed to drink now.

Before – I am never drinking ever, ever again.
After – I NEED WINE.

Before – It is totally fine to eat cereal for dinner, play on swings at the park and watch kids’ television shows.  TOTALLY.  FINE.
After – Dear God, I need to start thinking about getting a mortgage.  And a pension.  Crap.  Do I need life insurance yet?

Before – I’m a serious grown-up and as such I will decorate my home with tasteful, mature items.
After –  FAIRY LIGHTS!

Before – I’m so proud of my friends.  We’ve all grown up and achieved so much.
After – Wow, we haven’t changed AT ALL since we were nineteen.  That’s a bit worrying.

Before – I will cook a nutritious, inexpensive yet delightfully inventive three-course meal for this dinner party.  Check me out, I’m hosting a dinner party!
After – Sod that.  Chicken nuggets and chips for everyone.

Before – From now on, I will go the gym every day, get eight hours of sleep every night and be nice to people I don’t like.
After – Yeah, but…cheese and bitching.

Have a glorious weekend.

Seal of Approval

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Hello, reader!  How’s your week going so far?

When I was a child, it took me quite a while to work out that the phrase “seal of approval” referred to a stamp-type thing on a piece of paper, not an actual seal who followed you around and nodded approvingly when you did something right.  (Trips to the zoo became slightly less fun after this revelation, if I’m totally honest.)

In modern life, seals of approval come in many forms: likes on Facebook statuses and photos, retweets, promotions at work and the knowledge that awesome people like being your friends.  This is all very well and good, but how much time do we commit to gaining the approval of the only people who matter: ourselves?

I freely admit that I rely too much on the good opinion of other people.  Hence the writing, I guess.  I have built my entire professional life around entertaining other people, and it’s not that different in my personal life: I am one of those people who automatically assumes that an unanswered text means that the recipient despises me, for example.  I’m exaggerating, but modern life does encourage us to believe that silence is passive aggressive and that a friendship isn’t real until you’re connected on Facebook.  Not the healthiest way to approach social interaction, is it?

How do we fix this?  Can we go about our lives in a way that balances a strong sense of self-worth with knowing the value of other people’s respect?  Is there an attitude that will allow us to like ourselves enough not to worry too much about our reputations, but at the same time make sure that our reputations stay intact?  Can we be the best versions of ourselves without needing to hear about it from the people around us?

Some people are already able to do this, of course.  Lucky you, if you’re one of those types.  But for the rest of us, whatever aspect of our lives/upbringings/personalities has led us to this point, we need to focus on gaining our own respect before we work for anyone else’s.  You know the irritating but true phrase “no one will love you until you learn to love yourself”?  Well, it’s the same with respect (and slightly less cloying to think about): what use is anyone else’s if you haven’t got your own?

Pursuit of what we know (or hope) will make us better people is the key to finding self-respect.  Think about the people you admire in life: the achievers, the constants, the optimists.  All of those people have worked hard to achieve those great feats and obtain those virtues.  They identified what they wanted to be or do, and then pursued it for their own sense of self worth.  If they can do it, you can, too.

It’s like playing Pokemon on a GameBoy (showing my age here): when you’re working towards a gym badge in those games, you don’t give a crap what Team Rocket are up to.  In reality, when you’re working towards becoming a better version of yourself, you forget about what other people think of you.  You know deep down that your opinion is the only one which matters.

Having said that, I think all of our self-improvement programmes would develop much more rapidly if seals actually followed us around and applauded our good deeds.  I’ll have to look into that.

Have a stupendous Tuesday.

My (Slightly Less) Naughty Little Sister

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Hello, lovely reader!  How’s life treating you today?

Does anyone remember those stories about a little girl who was incredibly naughty, but essentially loveable?  They were called “My Naughty Little Sister”, and I remember reading them as a child and feeling a bit cheated by the stories’ inevitable happy endings.  If I’d got up to half of her shenanigans, I would never have been able to charm my way out of trouble the way that little girl did.  In fact, on many occasions I was that naughty, and it’s shocking how useless a winning smile and puppy dog eyes are when you’re dealing with angry teachers/parents/older siblings.

Anyway, as most of my social circle know, my siblings are the most important people in my life.  We are five very different people who happen to have the same face, and despite the obligatory childhood scraps and rivalries, we have ended up being very close friends as adults.  Last night I had a long phone conversation with my little sister: nothing major, just a nice, lengthy catch up and a bit of gossip.  But it was, as all of my conversations with my siblings are, very rewarding.  There are a few reasons for this, and for the existence of siblings in general being a brilliant thing.

First of all, there is nothing like having someone just like you around to validate your existence (and personality, in some cases).  I know that I can say to my little sister “I’m worried about this”, or “I really don’t like that”, and she will always understand where I’m coming from.  Like everyone else, I sometimes worry that I am very weird and that everyone else is a lot better at life than I am.  Having four people in my life who share my neuroses, genetic predispositions and slightly odd frame of cultural reference makes me feel like a proper human being.  I may well be very weird, but I am not alone.  Having siblings puts you into context, and that’s extremely valuable.

Secondly, siblings – even twins – are never entirely identical as people, and it’s a constant source of pride and joy to me that my siblings all pursue different ambitions.  It’s amazing how different close relatives can really be, and talking to my little sister about her degree (which is in science, of all things.  Can you imagine?) reminds me how important it is to respect other people’s passions.  It’s easy to go through life assuming that we know pretty much everything about our nearest and dearest, and we may not share their beliefs or aspirations, but it’s always worth checking in on them from time to time.  I love hearing my little sister talk about her life, because it’s so different from mine.

Thirdly, I am a very typical big sister in that I hate the idea of my younger siblings repeating my mistakes.  I mean, really.  If you’re going to mess things up then at least have the decency to be original about it.  Jeez.  Seriously, though: I have messed up enough times and been hurt often enough to recognise the danger signs in my little brother and sister, and I dread to think of them going through some of the rubbish that I put myself through at their age because of pride, misplaced affections or your basic, thoughtless drunkenness.  Thankfully, my younger siblings are a lot more sensible than I am, and my little sister in particular is a wise old soul (for a twenty-one year old).  Talking to her and hearing her opinions reminds me that she is a lot smarter than I was at her age, and if she is slightly less naughty than I am, that can only be a good thing.

I know that I am very, very lucky to get on so well with my multitudinous siblings, but I think that the essential elements of our relationships are the same for friends and family members from all walks of life.  It doesn’t matter how alienated you may be now, or how little you think you have in common: your siblings are the people most like you on earth, whether that’s in terms of personality or physical appearance, and their influence on your life is incomparable with anything else.  Even if they annoy you, bore you or just have far too many embarrassing stories to tell about you: they will always be a huge part of who you are.

And that’s a very good thing, because you’re wonderful.  Have a cracker of a Wednesday.

The Smug Spectrum

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Hello, lovely reader.  How did you sleep last night?  Me?  Oh, I had a very weird dream about trying to put on a play in the House of Lords.  David Blunkett wanted to play Oedipus.  Very odd.

Anyway, today I’d like to talk about the various degrees of smugness (smugness?  Smugosity? Smugism?  Who knows) that we come across in day to day life.  As far as I can see, there’s a sliding scale of complacency that we are willing to put up with.  It’s very telling about British society that we have so many synonyms for “smug”, which is a state that we inherently mistrust.  We need lots of words for it so that we can identify exactly what it is about someone else’s demeanour that we find offensive.

Confident: damning with faint praise, in this country.  We say it about ourselves in job applications and we try to demonstrate it in our social interactions, but deep down we don’t believe that anyone is capable of being confident every second of the livelong day.  It’s just not natural.

Cocky: a laddish, raffish, devil-may-care word for someone who is cheekily sure of themselves.  A bit annoying, but essentially harmless.

Self-assured: sounds like a good thing, and in general it is, but for most of us it also conjures up the urge to shout “WHAT?!  How can you be self-assured?  Why aren’t you riddled with self-doubt and paranoia like the rest of us?  Weirdo.”

Vain: get your face out of the mirror, dumbass.  This one is just about having a preoccupation with one’s appearance, which is foolish but not unforgivable.

Smug: a silly-sounding word for a fairly silly state of being.  The word ‘smug’ has connotations of self-satisfaction on a long term basis, which is just unacceptable.  It also makes us think of undeserved good fortune – it is used a lot in reference to celebrities and politicians, after all – rather than genuine achievement.

Arrogant: ah, this is a tricky one.  We say that arrogance is unattractive, and we may well mean it, but there is something weirdly appealing about someone whose self-assurance has been taken to this whole new level.  This one is a bit toxic for would-be friends and lovers, so it’s probably best to avoid these people unless you’ve got very thick skin.

Conceited: arrogance mixed with extreme vanity.  Stay the heck away.

Simon Cowell: almost certainly the devil in (not very convincing) disguise.  Avoid at all costs.  

Have a lovely, Simon Cowell-free day.

Stop Talking to Yourself

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Happy Monday, reader!  How was your weekend?  

Everyone talks to themselves from time to time, and that’s totally fine.  It becomes slightly less socially acceptable when there are other people in the room, and it’s definitely frowned upon at formal occasions – funerals in particular are a no go.  In general, talking to yourself is not a problem, as long as you’re being nice to yourself.  It might sound a bit strange, but a lot of us use talking to ourselves as an opportunity to be defeatist or cowardly.  Here are five things that we really need to stop saying to and about ourselves:

  • “I’m such an idiot”
    No, you’re not.  Everyone has stupid moments from time to time.  That doesn’t make you an idiot.  Even if you were a idiot, do you really believe that telling yourself so is going to make you any smarter?  If you really think that you could stand to be more intellectual then read more books and listen to Radio 4.  Also, having an emotional response to something is not stupidity.  Trusting someone who ends up hurting/deceiving you or getting carried away by a crush is not an indication of cognitive impairment.  If someone else has made a mockery of your trust/feelings/Oyster card then they’re the idiot, not you.  
  • “S/he would never like me”
    Two words: watch Hairspray.  We have no idea how the human heart works, what makes people fancy each other or why couples stay together forever.  Oh, sure, there’s all the science about genetic compatibility and how we’re subconsciously attracted to the best candidates to continue the species with.  But if you convince yourself that you’re not worthy of someone’s affections then you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don’t believe that you’re worthwhile then how is anyone else supposed to?
  • “I’ll never get that job”
    Again, you never know.  It’s always worth applying for stuff that you’re a bit under-qualified for, because some employers see potential and like to help you realise it.  Also, it doesn’t matter how amazing the job is: if an employer rejects your application then either you weren’t right for the job, or the company wasn’t right for you.  Why would you want to work for a company foolish enough to reject you?  Why would you want to do a job that you weren’t right for?  Exactly.  Stop worrying about it.
  • “My mean parent/teacher/friend was right about me”
    No they flipping were not.  I know it’s much, much easier said than done, but you absolutely have to let go of nasty stuff that people have said about you.  This is for two reasons: firstly, those words were probably said out of anger, bitterness or malice, and therefore have less to do with you than the unhappiness of the person who said them.  Secondly, letting nasty comments take hold of your self-worth means that nobody wins.  
  • “I could never do that”
    Do what?  Travel the world?  Go skydiving?  Become famous?  Get out of your overdraft?  You are capable of anything you can think of, and I don’t just mean that in a cheesy, “live your dream” kind of way (although that is part of it).  Anything that you want to do with your life can definitely be done, and you know that to be true because someone else has done it before you.  Loads of people, in fact.  If they can do it – whether “it” is learn to tap dance or go into space – you can do it.  

Have a highly amusing Monday, and I will see you tomorrow.

Skip to the End

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Hello there, and welcome to a brand new week!  I hope your weekend was extremely restful.

So, Bag End has now been vacated and Ash and I have both returned to our parents’ houses.  We are very lucky that our families are so understanding (and that they’ve kept bed space for us), but I think it’s safe to say that we both feel a bit deflated.  We’ve just had a year of living independently and building up our own home.  This next bit of our lives is going to be a bit tricky.

I wouldn’t mind so much if I had something concrete to focus on: a new job or a new flat would be great right now.  Anyone who has experienced job or flat hunting in London will know that both are extremely demanding, difficult and headache-inducing.  I’ve done both of them before and I’m sure I can do them again now.  The only thing is that I really, really don’t want to.

I have some very wise and sympathetic friends who have experienced similar situations, and the advice from all of them has been not to get bogged down in my current circumstances, because they won’t be forever.  Living at home and being unemployed can be demoralising, but they are temporary states.  Being less mature and more prone to whining than my sensible friends, my instinctive response to their sagacity is basically “but I want to have a new flat/job now.  Why can’t I skip to the end of this bit?”

It’s very common to wish time away when we’re going through a difficult patch.  We know that we’ll get over our break-up eventually, or that if we keep sticking to this diet we will see results at some point.  We just hate waiting.  Putting all of your energy into something and then having to hang about for the results is extremely frustrating.  

It’s actually a good thing to have to wait for what you want.  If we got everything we desired as soon as we wished for it, we would never learn to be patient.  If our dreams materialised as soon as we thought of them, we would never experience the satisfaction of pursuing and genuinely achieving them.  If we had magic lamps to give us what we wanted whenever we wanted it, we wouldn’t have anything to be proud of when we looked back over our lives.  Plus, where on earth would you keep a magic lamp?  Can you get magical knick knacks covered by home insurance?  The whole plan is riddled with extra problems.

I think that one of the best things to do when we’re going through phases of enforced patience is to think of other times when this has been the case, and to take lessons from them.  You got over that last break-up, didn’t you?  Exactly.  Your A Level results were eventually released.  The latest series of your favourite television show did eventually start.  And while you were waiting, I’m sure that you did and experienced things which may have been serving as distractions at the time, but which have now become important parts of your life.  For example, the last time I was in this situation I wrote a play.  That play has just done a great run at the Edinburgh Fringe, and is soon to be a short film for Sky.  

Life is like that: if we concentrate on what we can get done while we’re waiting, we will surprise ourselves with what we’re capable of.  Instead of wanting to skip to the end, we should try to enjoy the possibilities these difficult times contain.

Have a fantastic day.  Make sure your lunch represents all the food groups.

Never Lego

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you doing?  Did you have a nice weekend?

I know I said I wouldn’t write too much Fringe-based bloggery while I’m away, but I’m afraid this one does start with an Edinburgh issue.  (It doesn’t stay there, I promise.  It moves swiftly onto more general silliness.)  

One of the strangest side-effects of being at the Fringe is that you find out a lot about people based on how they behave here.  This is especially true when it comes to time management.  There are people who plan their time to the very last second, with colour-coded, highlighted schedules.  There are also people who have a vague idea of what they want to see, but who are happy to go with the flow.  And then there are people like my friend Harry, who try to do way too much too soon and end up, five days in, lying on the floor in the middle of the day and singing “Smack That” to themselves.

At the Fringe and in real life, everyone has very different approaches to planning their time and achieving what they want to do.  Some people panic as birthdays approach because they see age as part of a huge, colour-coded schedule that we are supposed to blindly follow.  Surely by 25 we should know what we want to do with our lives, surely by 35 we should have met the person we’re going to marry, and surely by 45 we should have stopped enjoying Lego.  (Never stop enjoying Lego, by the way.  Lego is awesome.)

Others tend to amble happily through, cheerily meeting long-term partners and exploring career opportunities as they go.  Being slightly more laid back about when you achieve your life goals means that you’re more likely to be ok if things don’t go the way you expect them to.  Crises and bizarre eventualities are disconcerting enough as it is: if you have an imaginary schedule with post-it notes and a symbol key, it’s a nightmare. 

The other thing about being more relaxed about this stuff is that it has a knock-on effect on your own self-esteem and the people around you.  If you are frantically concerned about not being married before you’re 40 (or whatever) you will obviously discuss it with your friends.  Your friends in turn are more likely to get the idea into their own heads – the power of suggestion and all that – and then they will start to worry about themselves, too.  Before you know it everyone’s too worried about hitting an imaginary deadline to enjoy what they’re actually doing in life.

In terms of your self-esteem, you do not have to let go of your dreams or ideals if things don’t materialise the way you expect them to.  If you’re not married when you thought you would be, not living in the kind of house you dreamed of, or even rocking a hairstyle that you’re not entirely happy with, you’re still absolutely fine.  Things not happening when you think they should doesn’t mean they never will – it just means not now.    

Have a sensational Monday.  

Smells Like Team Spirit

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Hello, lovely reader!  How’s your week progressing?  Getting through your to do list at a pleasing pace, I hope?

“Team work” is one of those phrases that fills us with dread and fear.  This is because we secretly think that “team work” means “unable to think for yourself”, “willing to let others do your work” or, horror of horrors, “always up for those God-awful trust exercises that supposedly break the ice, but actually make everyone feel cripplingly embarrassed”.

What you discover very quickly in working world (particularly when you work in the arts) is that when it actually happens, team work is flipping brilliant.  Of course we should all have independent approaches, unique ideas and confidence in what we bring to the job as individuals, but we should also enjoy the many advantages that proper team work offers.

As you might remember from previous posts, I am currently working in a front of house team on a large-scale kids’ show in London.  The job is difficult and the show is not really aimed at my demographic, but the experience is ace.  As they say in The Lego Movie song, everything is cool when you’re part of a team.  Here are a few lovely things about team work that might dispel some of those trust exercise (shudder) memories:

In jokes – weeks, months and even years after the event, in jokes can help a team to feel connected to one another.  In jokes are also a good way to just have a bit of fun at work when the chips are down.

People understand why you’re stressed – if you turn to a colleague and go “aaaargh” (or something slightly more articulate), nine times out of ten they will get what you’re on about.  Not having to explain your stress and still managing to get sympathy is pretty darn efficient.

The play’s the thing – working with a whole bunch of people who care about the same project you do is brilliant, because you are constantly reminded that you are all working towards something bigger than any of you.  This can be scary and inspirational in equal measure, but it is always a motivator.

Down time – it is so nice to unwind in the company of people whose day you’ve shared.  There’s a sense of mutual achievement and good humour when my colleagues and I get the train home from work together, even though most of us have at least an hour’s commute ahead of us.  Stopping at the amazing frozen yoghurt place on our way from work to the station helps, too.

Going crazy – work can sometimes take over our lives a bit, and when it does it’s nice to know that the people you work with are going crazy at exactly the same rate, in pretty much the same way and for precisely the same reason.  For instance, the kids’ show I’m working includes some very distinctive music.  Surprisingly, it’s actually very cheering to hear my colleagues humming it all day long, because it means that I’m not alone.  The one time that it’s good to crazy is when you’re in great company.

Have a delightful Friday.