Tag Archives: decisions

Mind-Altering Circumstances

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Hello, reader!  How are you?  Take a seat.  Don’t mind the mess, I’m still unpacking.  Would you like a coffee?

I recently discovered that many forms of urban wildlife like to visit my garden, and in my naive, not-a-real-Londoner state I was delighted.  “I’m living in The Animals of Farthing Wood!” I thought.  (Except that time I saw a squirrel eating a potato waffle – pictured above – which was just baffling.)

Well, waking up this morning to discover that said wildlife had seen fit to POO on the patio made me rethink my position.  I have spent the last hour Googling how to deter foxes, with mixed success.  According to this nice pest control man, “young male urine” will do the trick.  Excuse me, but a) gross and b) I live with my sister.  How on EARTH are we supposed to ask our next young male visitor to oblige us with that particular type of pesticide?  It’s just not happening.

Anyway, vulpine poo problems aside, this last week or so has demonstrated to me that changing your mind is an inevitable part of life.  It doesn’t even take an unwelcome surprise (as it were) to create the change: as we experience life, we discover that our feelings about the world change accordingly.  This is a good thing, because it shows that we are not closed-minded people, but it’s also a bit disorientating, because our opinions form an integral part of who we are.  Here are some of the things I think we worry about too much in terms of where we stand:

The Career Conundrum
I won’t lie to you: pursuing a writing career is hands down the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and this is coming from someone who’s been to Hackney at night time.  Sometimes our choice of job or pursuit of passion leaves us feeling a bit lost, and we start to wonder whether we’ve made the right decisions.  This week I genuinely started to panic about the writing thing, and even though it’s sort-of on the wane now, it was weird how unappealing my lifelong passion started to look.
I really don’t believe that it is ever too late to change your mind about what you want to do.  I have a friend who is doing a degree course at the age of 26 (and getting insanely high marks as well, the jammy madam).  A lot of people I know – especially those lovely creative types – are constantly turning their hands to all sorts of endeavours, and it makes them much more rounded and fascinating people.  Society tells us that we must introduce ourselves with our job titles, as though our careers defined us.  They don’t, even though they do take up a lot of our time.  It’s not worth wasting time worrying about what your job title sounds like when the main thing is to be happy.  If you change your mind about what you want to do, that’s your business.  As far as I’m concerned, you should be allowed to introduce yourself as Grand High Master of the Universe for all that your job title actually matters.

The Marriage and Kids Debate
“I definitely want to get married one day.”  “I want lots of kids, but not marriage.”  “I would never have a church wedding.”  We’ve all had these conversations, haven’t we?  Especially once you hit my age, lots of people start to seriously consider what the long-term landscape of their personal lives is going to be.  At this point, particularly if you have a serious boy/girlfriend, it becomes very important to be completely honest with yourself about what you really want.  You may have spent your entire life saying that you categorically MUST be married by a certain age or have a minimum number of children, but of all things your vision of familial happiness has to be allowed to change.  It’s nice to have a hypothetical idea of what you want, but you have to be able to adapt to what your heart tells you as you get older.  At sixteen you may have been adamant that marriage was not for you, but if you meet the man/woman of your dreams at twenty-six and you change your mind, don’t fight it.  Your past self had no idea what life had in store for you, so why does s/he get to dictate your decisions now?

The Really Big Issues
It is a truly excellent thing to have an informed opinion about Syria, Scottish independence, euthanasia and how we can persuade David Cameron’s home planet to take him back.  The key word in that sentence is “informed” – new information and updates about all of these issues appear on a daily basis, and if situations change we are supposed to readjust our views accordingly.  It takes a much more intelligent and honest person to change their mind about huge political problems than it does to stick to narrow-minded guns.  Consistency is all very well and good, but have you noticed that the news is not consistent?  It changes every day, in fact.  We need to keep up, otherwise we’ll end up like those eejits who think that gay marriage causes hurricanes or whatever.

The main thing to remember is that changing our minds once doesn’t mean we’ll never change them back, or that we won’t form a new opinion entirely.  My writing worries will go, I’m sure, as soon I get stuck into my next play.  If they don’t, I could always retrain as an accountant or something.

Ok, that will NEVER happen.  But the point is that we can and should keep our options (and minds) open.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Thursday.

Sticking to Your (Metaphorical) Guns

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Good morning, lovely reader.  How is your weekend going so far?

As those of you who have read this post about me bullying a pepper pot will already know, I recently made a sweeping declaration about a particular aspect of my life, i.e. that if something hadn’t changed by a certain point in time, I would have to radically change my behaviour.  Without delving too far into the hows and the whys and the “do you mind if I don’t?”s (sorry – I can’t resist the opportunity to include a Blackadder reference), I will tell you that the deadline for something to change is today.  I now realise that I was being ludicrously optimistic about that time frame.  Radically changed behaviour, here I come.

When my house mate gave up smoking, she went completely cold turkey straight away.  I have rarely seen such impressive will power, especially given that she went to a snazzy industry party in Soho three nights later and could very easily have reneged on her decision.  She was out in central London with a lot of booze, a lot of smokers and some very famous actors, but she didn’t give in.  Amazing, isn’t it?  I know.  She’s a legend.

It is examples of self-control like that one which make me determined not to go back on my deadline thing.  It’s going to be painful and difficult.  I will probably change my mind about it in the next few days, hours or even minutes.  I feel incredibly sorry for my friends, who are going to have to put up with a lot from me for the next few weeks, but it has to be done.  This may have started with a sweeping declaration and an unfortunate condiment container, but I think we all know that when we try to make big decisions about our lives it’s because we recognise that something is wrong, and our job as human beings with a sense of self-preservation is to get the heck out.

Who knows what we are missing by pursuing things that are bad for us?  What kind of amazing stuff is happening that we don’t even know about because we’re too busy being addicted to a harmful substance, malingering in a dead end job or chasing after someone who doesn’t love us?  I can tell you for certain that you are a fascinating person with a lot to offer, and I hate to think of you wasting your time on something that is hurting you or holding you back.  Make the decision to stop what you’re doing, and then stick to your guns.  I cannot stress enough how utterly and completely metaphorical these guns should be (unless you’ve got water pistols, which are just cool).

Have the kind of Sunday that will make for a great anecdote tomorrow.

I’ve Got “Changes” Stuck in My Head Now

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Happy Friday, lovely reader!  Got any nice plans for your weekend?

Last night I watched the season finale of My Mad Fat Diary on that absolute blessing of a website, 4oD.  For those of you who don’t watch it, don’t worry: I’m not going to go into any massive amount of detail about it (although it’s well-worth watching just for Nico Mirallegro, who is beautiful, as you can see).  For those of you who do watch the show but haven’t seen the finale yet, also don’t worry: I won’t spoil it for you.

The reason that I brought it up at all is because one of the key messages that came out of the episode is that you really never know how things are going to change.  You might think that you know how you feel about something, and then find that your opinion is entirely turned around.  (For example, I live in hope that one day I will wake up and discover that I like olives.)  You can think that you know how you feel about a person, and that can change without you even noticing.  That’s how old friends fall in love and old couples fall apart; sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s terrible, but it does happen.  You never know how you might change.

I’ve just typed the word “change” so many times that I’ve now got Bowie’s Changes stuck in my head.  (Weird fact about that song: when it was released as a single in 1972 it never reached the Top 40 in America or the UK, but it got great reviews and has since been listed as #127 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.)

Lots of us think that things happen to us, and that we are forced to adjust to them.  Sometimes this is true, but a lot of the time we actually have more of a say in how we feel than we realise.  If something changes that you genuinely can’t help, you can always find a way to adapt to it.  For example, when I lost my job a month or so ago I could have sat around feeling sorry for myself, but I didn’t.  (My friends and loved ones would never have let me do that, because they’re brilliant.)  I have registered as self-employed, I’m writing this blog and articles on other websites, and I’m finally giving my theatre company some much needed attention.  I have time to see my friends, and I can appreciate living in London for what it is: a bizarre adventure.  Sometimes it can be confusing or a bit lonely, but mostly it’s bloody good fun.

I decided to take that course of action.  I chose not to accept “Episode 7: The One Where Vicki Loses Her Job” as the season finale.  Think about times when something’s gone wrong for you in the past.  Did you sit around and feel sorry for yourself?  Maybe for a while.  But where are you now?  Are you still sulking?  Of course not.  You’re a wonderful human being with a lot of brilliant stuff to do.  You chose to respond to that situation by getting the flip on with your life.  You, my friend, have been commissioned for an additional twelve seasons at least.  (I don’t know why I picked twelve.  I have no idea how the television industry works.)

Most of this week (as you may have noticed from previous posts) I have been in a bit of a strop on behalf of myself and my friends, because we think that having feelings for people makes us vulnerable, and we don’t like that at all.  No siree.  But I had a truly enlightening conversation with a friend the other day, who told me that loving someone (in any way, not just romantically) is not just something that happens to you; it’s something that you decide to do.  You can fight your feelings and you can hide them, but they’ll still be there.  Isn’t it better to use them for something positive, even if you don’t know what will happen?  You don’t necessarily have to make massive declarations of eternal devotion or (God help us all) some kind of huge gesture worthy of a Hollywood rom-com.  You just have to be brave.  You have to admit to yourself how you feel, and then see where it takes you.  I suppose that’s an example of instigating change rather than being a victim of it, which can only be a positive step.

I think that that’s a big ask (especially on a Friday, for crying out loud), and I think it takes most people a while to be able to do that.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite there yet.  Although surely if I can master that bit, the olives thing will just happen automatically?

Have the Friday to end all Fridays.

Let’s Go on the Swings

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Hello, lovely reader.  How are you doing this morning?

Today I’d like to talk about spontaneity, which I just decided right this second.  (Not really, but that would have been so cool!)  Spontaneity in popular culture is often portrayed as one of two things: irresponsible or romantic.  Katherine Heigl jumping onto an already moving boat at the end of 27 Dresses is a good example of both.  That jump is a ridiculous thing to do in heels, but the woman had to get to James Marsden.  Fair enough.

Small children are very good at being spontaneous in their own way, because they haven’t learned “the rules” yet.  If they see something that interests them, regardless of what they were already doing, they will toddle off towards it on a determined voyage of discovery.  Nine times out of ten they will also try to grab it and/or eat it.  As teenagers we rediscover this sense of freedom in momentary decisions, but this time we call it “rebellion” because we are testing out a new set of toys: drinking, going on road trips, pulling all-nighters, driving to McDonalds at six in the morning and so on and so forth.  At the same time we are also learning to make decisions based on long-term considerations: which subjects to study, which universities to apply to, where to travel on our gap year.  We are slowly being drawn out of the world of irresponsible snap-decisions into the scary scenario of proper grown-up stuff, and although we don’t like it, we all give in eventually.

As we get older the moments of spontaneity become smaller and less consequential to the course of our lives.  That’s a massive generalisation, because obviously people of all ages can make huge, life-changing decisions on a whim, but think about it: spontaneity when I was nineteen was getting a tattoo.  Nowadays it’s going to an unfamiliar pub.

Having said that, last night some friends and I went to a pub quiz in Islington (which we came second in.  Very proud).  We were having such a great time that we decided to move on to another pub – it was St. Patrick’s Day, after all – but we got distracted by a children’s playground for several minutes.  We went on the swings, the see-saw and a weird spirally thing that none of us understood, but was pretty cool.  One or more of us may have fallen off at one point, but that’s by the by.

Childish whimsy aside, the spontaneity of doing something fun just because it’s there in front of you is a wonderful activity to rediscover, and I highly recommend it to you.  As adults spontaneity has become an expensive and/or a bad thing: that last round of drinks that you’ll regret tomorrow morning, for example.  I think it would be nice to rediscover the potential joy in spontaneity, particularly because there are ways to experience it without terrible consequences.  I mean, I’ve got a bruise on my knee from last night’s excursions, but that’s no big deal.  When I was six years old that happened all the time.

Have an amazing Tuesday.  Give me a shout if you fancy going on the swings.

Give Up and Give Out

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My friends are wonderful, intelligent and fascinating people, but sometimes their decisions defy logic.

This afternoon I went for a meal at T.G.I. Friday’s with a group of my closest friends, and we had a brilliant time together.  Three of us were waiting for the others at the bar for a few minutes, and our conversation went like this:

“Oh God, I’m so hungover.”
“Me too.”
“Urrrrrgggh.  What drink are you getting?”
“Bloody Mary.”
“Blueberry mojito.”
“URRRRGGGH.”

As you can see, our awareness of consequences does not always extend to making good decisions.  Lent starts this week, and although I am not particularly religious on a day to day basis, I am as ready as the next person to take advantage of the season of self-improvement.

I have decided (except on my birthday) not to drink alcohol during Lent.  Don’t look at me like that; I mean it.  Sadly, this is based on fairly small-minded concerns like money, calorie intake and my social graces (or lack thereof).  I think that most people give up things during Lent for similar reasons, though.  People give up smoking and junk food because they want to be healthier, not because they think that their decision will do the wider world any good.  I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that per se,  but I think during Lent it’s important to try to think about other people, too.

Again, this isn’t based on a religious idea so much as the premise that if you are working on self-improvement physically or personally by subtracting a bad habit, you should use the extra time/money/energy you have to go out and contribute something positive to someone else.  My house mate, who is already very good at thinking of others and being generous towards them, is considering taking up volunteering during Lent.  She’s suggested to me that I take up some kind of mentoring position, perhaps in a local school.  The whys, wherefores and the “holy crap, not another CRB check” aside, I am pretty excited about helping people.

It would be very easy  for someone like me (i.e. an unemployed person) to get bogged down worrying about myself and what will happen to me.  I am incredibly lucky, because I have got amazing friends and family who support my decision not to go after anymore office jobs, so I don’t actually have to worry about myself right now.  What I should be focusing on is how the extra time I’ve got on my hands can be used to help other people.

Obviously it would be nice to say that I will maintain my Lent resolutions forever, not just for a couple of months.  I should, in fact, be thinking about other people all the time, not just in the run up to Easter.  Some people think that it’s pointless to give up bad habits for a pre-defined period of time, and that’s fair enough.  But I hope that in making myself stick to a certain routine of behaviour for a matter of weeks, I will learn good habits that I will carry on automatically after Easter.  You never know…

Have a lovely evening everyone!