Tag Archives: dreams

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?

Villains and Heroes

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Good morning, you marvellous creature.  How’s your Friday going?  

Our society is obsessed with the concepts of heroism and villainy.  Specifically in terms of celebrity culture, we like to be told who to admire and who to abhor.  I have a massive problem with celebrity culture in general, because I think that it’s pointless at best and incredibly offensive at worst to speculate on the lives of people we’ll never know.  It makes far more sense to look closer to home to find things that we can aspire to or avoid, and to surround ourselves with people who make our heroes list.  Here are a few examples of the goodies and baddies we are most likely to come across in life:

Villains

  • The git who doesn’t give up their seat for a pregnant woman on public transport.  How is that even a thing that happens?  It’s ludicrous.
  • The person who doesn’t care who they hurt.  I’ve known a guy to cheat on one of my closest friends with one of my other closest friends, and the audacity of that still makes me livid, even years later.  Seriously, don’t poo where you eat.  Or where you socialise, I guess.  In fact, pooing anywhere other than the traditionally designated facilities is just not cool.
  • The person who never says please or thank you.  That drives me up the flipping wall.  Someone bring me a stepladder, please; my rage is preventing me from getting back down to the floor.
  • The person who just doesn’t give a flying fig about you.  Why do we put up with people who never listen to what we say, ask us questions about ourselves or show any concern for our welfare?  This covers a whole spectrum of asshats from story-toppers to emotionally abusive partners.  People who only want you around as an audience do not deserve you.  You are not just a spectator.
  • The moron who likes to shit-stir.  Why would anyone get a kick out of inventing harmful computer viruses, upsetting their friends or creating vicious rumours?  I don’t understand.  Incidental Schadenfreude is one thing, but intentionally creating distress for absolutely no reason is just evil.  Villainous, you might say.

Heroes

  • Single parents.  Those guys are hands down the bravest, most hard-working and incredible people we will ever meet.  Whenever I get depressed about my responsibilities and worries I think about how much my single parent friends have to deal with, and feel a bit ashamed of myself.
  • People who fight their fears.  Like lots of people, my way of dealing with stuff that I’m afraid of is to simply run away from it and refuse to fix the issue.  When I climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh I went with a friend who, as far as I knew, simply loved climbing and always had.  However, I found out that he only took up climbing to confront his fear of heights, which is pretty incredible to me.  People who can challenge themselves like that are definitely to be respected.
  • People who always care.  One of my friends is the loveliest, gentlest and most compassionate person I know.  She also has absolutely no luck when it comes to health and family problems, but that never stops her from caring about what’s going on with me.  Isn’t it amazing to have someone in your life who doesn’t let their problems prevent them from loving you?
  • People who pursue their passion.  A lot of my friends are creative types, and I am bowled over every day by how hard they work and how much they sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams.
  • People who can get over a heartbreak.  If you’ve ever had your heart broken and have recovered from it, you are an undisputed hero.  Go get yourself a cape.

Have a brilliant weekend.

Judgement Call

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Good morning and happy Saturday to you!  D’you know, I only discovered yesterday that this is another bank holiday weekend.  Thank goodness those poor, tired bankers are having a well-earned rest from the arduous task of stealing our money.

As you can see, I’ve just made a mass-judgement about bankers based on the global financial crisis, and although that’s not exactly a controversial opinion, I’m sure that there are nice, compassionate people among the financiers of Canary Wharf.  (Don’t look at me like that.  It could happen.)

What makes you judge someone?  Do you assume that someone is trendy (and therefore a bad person) because they’re sporting a beard and skinny jeans?  Do you dub someone a saint in your mind because you witness them buying a Big Issue?  Do you lose respect for a friend when you discover that they enjoy the musical stylings of Justin Bieber?

I do, and if you’re honest I think you do, too.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a preachy post about how we need to be less judgemental (although I think we should probably give it a go, shouldn’t we?  Yeah, alright.  I will if you will).  Instead, I would like to identify a few things that we absolutely should judge people based on:

1) How they talk about their elders
Even if someone doesn’t have the best relationship in the world with their biological parents, everyone has parental figures in their lives from whom they have learned a great deal.  The way that someone talks about their mum, older sibling, grandparent, favourite teacher etc. tells you a lot about what made them who they are, and how big a part of their personality is informed by a sense of respect.

2) Sense of humour
Don’t be misled here: I don’t mean that you should judge people based on which sitcoms they like, or whether they’re fans of the Cornetto Trilogy.  By “sense of humour” I mean how they respond to day-to-day life: do they laugh when they fall over in public, or throw a hissy fit?  Do they snigger at others’ misfortune, or are they sympathetic?  A person’s sense of humour demonstrates very clearly what their priorities are and how much perspective they have.

3) Social standing
Again, don’t get the wrong idea: I’m not suggesting that we split the world into Breakfast Club characters.  What I mean is, you can tell a lot about someone by how their friends behave around them.  For example, my brother is the dad figure in his friendship group at uni.  This amuses me because I know him well enough (obviously) to know that how his friends see him accurately reflects his personality.

4) How (much) they feel about stuff
Obviously we can’t have an opinion about everything, but you can make fairly accurate assumptions about someone based on how much they care about their interests, ambitions and morals.  It doesn’t really matter what the interests are (within the limits of morality and the law, of course) as long as the person cares about them.  Apathy is the enemy of romance, art, the progress of science and half-decent conversation.

5) How they feel about you
For your own sake, you should definitely make judgements based on how someone treats you, and how they feel about you.  Someone who loves you (and acts like it) is clearly an excellent human being, and someone who does not is not worth your time.  Also, who wouldn’t love you?  You’re adorable!

Have a lovely, relaxing Saturday.  Maybe go for a long walk.

We Could Totally Go on Countdown

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Hello, dear reader!  Are you having a nice Sunday?

My birthday party was yesterday, and it was marvellous.  Lots of friends, Cards Against Humanity and an unholy amount of cake at my house followed by taking over a pub garden for the evening make for a pretty perfect Saturday.  On the trip from my house to the pub we were definitely “those people” on the tube who were being a bit too noisy, but we were also handing out cake to strangers, so I like to think that we balanced ourselves out in terms of transport karma.

One of my favourite things about my wider social circle is that pretty much all of my friends get along with each other, regardless of external factors.  My siblings get on with my uni friends, and my friends from school get on with the person who stole my tricycle at nursery school (and has somehow become one of my closest friends in just twenty-two years).  Last night I sat in a pub garden and looked at my friends chatting, drinking, and climbing on the garden furniture, and I realised how lucky I am to have so many people in my life who like each other (and me, hopefully).

Something else occurred to me about my friends last night: none of us are where we thought we would be at this age.  Geographically we are all pretty much where we expected to find ourselves (i.e. in London), but in terms of career stuff and personal lives I think our mid-twenties have caught us entirely by surprise.  That’s not a bad thing, but it’s interesting to look at our trajectories since university (for example) and see how far we’ve strayed from our original ambitions.  We are, like Moss caught up in the dark underworld of Countdown, not exactly who or where we thought we would be.

I think that that’s amazing, particularly because so many of my nearest and dearest are drama types who could feasibly have been forced to abandon their dreams because of discouragement, money and other nasty things.  Thankfully none of us have, and if anything we are more enthusiastic about our dreams now that we’ve lived in the real world for a bit.  We know more about how we’re going to get where we want to be.

Now, how does one go about being on Countdown?…

I hope you have the kind of Sunday dinner that would make Gordon Ramsey weep with joy.

Gloria Gaynor is Rooting For You

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Good morning!  How are you doing?  I hope you’ve got nice plans for your weekend.

For those of you who read this blog regularly (ish), you may be wondering why I haven’t yet written a post about what it was like recording Pointless.  There is a very good reason for this, and it’s a very serious, grown-up, intellectual reason: um…we haven’t been to the studio yet.  Due to numbers and other unpredictable things, we’ve had our studio dates postponed for a couple of weeks, but we are assured that this is a good sign and that the production team don’t usually bother providing people with alternative dates.  So that’s nice.

The other potential problem is that my house mate has an acting job in Salisbury that week, so she might not be able to attend one of our new studio dates.  I really hope that there’s a solution to the clash, but if not, we might not be going on Pointless after all.  Sniff.  It’s fine..all this revision for nothing…hours wasted on Sporcle…poring over QI books late into the night…but it’s fine.  I will survive, as per the wishes of Gloria Gaynor.

In general, human beings are capable of surviving all sorts of things: bereavement, break-ups, Soho on a Friday night.  Some things are more difficult to survive than others, but you are more than capable of coming out of an emotionally draining situation with your head held high.  Here are a few things that I think you should do to secure your survival in any emotional hardship:

1) Look at the long term

So difficult to do, especially if you are very angry or upset, but picturing yourself in a few years’ time can be really helpful when you’re trying to recover from a nasty situation.  For example, in a few years’ time you will be completely over your break-up.  In the future you might run into your ex from time to time.  Everybody wants to ‘win’ a break-up by being physically fitter, more successful and preferably going out with someone better-looking than the ex.  If you want to ‘win’ this break-up, it’s better to go to the gym than stay in bed eating ice-cream, even though it’s what you really want to do right now.  Put down the spoon.

2) Talk to nice people

Well, obviously.  Talking to nasty people is no fun at all.  What I mean is, it’s ok to be struggling with something and want to discuss it, whether you want practical advice or need a bit of a vent.  Choose your confidant wisely and make sure that you know what you want from the exchange.  I’ve made the mistake before of going to one of my clear-thinking, super-practical friends with a problem.  I just wanted a bit of a moan, and he sent me away with a colour-coded to do list and a Gantt chart.

3) Be kind to yourself

This covers all sorts of things: eat healthily, sleep at proper times, drink lots of water.  I know it sounds boring and mumsy-ish, but there’s a reason why people say weird things like “at least you’ve got your health”.  Having your health is important because it sets you up to cope with everything else in life.  And seriously, put down the ice-cream and go to the gym.  You’re not winning this break-up yet!

4) Use it

As those of you who read my blog post about The Hard Man the other day will know, I firmly believe the best thing to do in a bad situation is find a way to use it to your advantage.  Sometimes that’s not possible straight away, but if you’re looking for silver linings they don’t come any shinier than discovering a way to make a crisis into a success.  For example, losing my job didn’t feel like such a good thing at the time, but now I’m deliriously happy because I get to write all day every day.  Sure, a regular income would be lovely, but I’m doing what makes me happy, which is so much more important.

5) Aim for happiness

Don’t aim for survival.  Aim for the top.  Work towards your biggest goals, your most cherished ambitions and your ideal situations.  If you don’t quite make it you will at least have tried, and you’ll be somewhere between happy and surviving.  If you aim for survival and you fail, where the heck does that leave you?

The other thing about being happy is that it’s the best possible revenge against someone who treated you badly.  Most importantly, you deserve to be happy.  You’re lovely.  Gloria Gaynor and I are rooting for you.

Have a splendid Thursday!

Stuff I’m Definitely Going to Teach My Kids

Hello, reader!  I hope you know that by getting this far on a Monday you are a champion.  Mondays are rubbish, and you are clearly owning this one already.  Good for you.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about stuff we the mid-twenties team are too old to do now, and my house mate Ash wrote a brilliant response about stuff she knows she shouldn’t do, but still does: take a look at it here.  Ash and I both have birthdays around the corner, which could explain why we have ageing and childhood on our minds.  As Ash points out in her blog post, when you’re younger your birthdays are milestones of opportunity – you can drive now, you can drink now, you can drink in America now – but as the milestones go by you start to look back and see what you can’t (or shouldn’t) do anymore.

It might seem a bit rich for two girls in their mid-twenties to make grand, tragic statements about the perils of ageing, so my apologies to anyone who thinks that we’re drama queens.  I can only defend us by saying that a) we are so recently past the last “good” milestone that we are still adjusting to the idea of birthdays being bad, and b) we are drama queens.  We have our own tiaras and everything.

Today I have decided to take a more positive approach about this loss-of-childhood thing: I have thought about what kind of childhood I will want my kids to have, and what kind of lessons I most want them to learn.

1) How to Bake
My mum is wonderful for many reasons, but I think one of my favourite things about her is that she taught us all how to bake.  I can whip up a sponge cake in half an hour (including cooking time.  That’s right.  Don’t hate me ’cause you ain’t me) because many years ago my mum took the time to show me, and to have fun with her daughter as well as teach her a great life skill.  Baking is one of the few loopholes that allows grown-ups to behave like kids: you can make a mess, you can make incredibly unhealthy but yummy food, and you can decorate the crap out of said food with glitter and icing.
Baking also results in being able to feed people nice things.  It’s probably the Irish genes coming through, but I love making people birthday cakes, biscuits and what have you.  Ash (who is, if anything, even more obsessed with baking than I am) would agree with me that one of the greatest joys in life is giving people cake.  Such a simple activity results in so much joy.  I want my children to have fun learning to bake, and to spend the rest of their lives using that skill to make themselves and other people happy.

2) Creativity is a Super Power
Speaking of my mum and baking, I have to take this opportunity to say that the woman makes INCREDIBLE cakes.  Kids’ cakes, wedding cakes, beautiful cupcakes arranged in a weird tower thingy: you name it, she can do it.  Look at these:600133_10151800790980083_1127455735_n photo (5)646_112469255082_353_n

The woman made a DINOSAUR CAKE, for crying out loud.  That is the closest thing to a super power that anyone could have, in my opinion.  She passed her amazing artistic abilities down to us in varying degrees, but the most active artist among us is my brother, who paints stuff like this:

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It makes me sick that he can paint so well, and I can’t even draw stick people.  These are just two examples of the kind of creativity that makes my jaw drop, but my life is full of people who excel at singing, acting, writing, dancing and all manner of other things.  I want my children to understand that having a creative outlet is a wonderful thing that allows you to process all kinds of thoughts, emotions and impulses, and that creativity in others is something to love and respect.  Which leads me neatly onto my next lesson…

3) Respect
This is a big one, and it covers all sorts of things.  If I ever have a daughter, I want her to respect herself.  I want her to ignore global media’s insistence that women are supposed to be as thin, tall and beautiful as possible.  If I have a son, I want him to respect himself too.  I want him to shun masculine stereotypes and just be himself, not what society tells him to be.  I want my kids to respect their family, their friends and their colleagues.  I hope that my children will understand from an early age that it is not acceptable to take their stress out on other people, and that every person they meet deserves to be spoken to politely and listened to attentively.  They will say “please” and “thank you”, they will not judge others based on race, religion, sexual preference or appearance, and I’ll be damned if they ever do the unthinkable and jump a queue.

4) Learning is for Life, not just for Christmas
My family is full of people who learn like it’s going out of fashion.  As far as I’m concerned, my maternal grandfather knew everything there was to know, and he instilled a passion in me for knowledge and understanding.  Similarly, I have absolutely no idea how my dad’s head can contain all of the information that it does, or how he has had the time to acquire so much knowledge.  My eldest sister is passionate about travel, and she loves exploring far-away places and learning about their cultures.  This also ties in with my genetic predisposition to read everything I can, which I sincerely hope my children inherit.  Life is a long and fascinating process of discovery, and I want my kids to love learning.  Curiosity may have killed the cat, but wanting to understand the world we live in is a wonderful trait, and I prefer dogs to cats anyway.

5) Passion
If my genes are anything to go by, my children will be stubborn, impulsive and in all likelihood addicted to coffee by the time they’re sixteen.  They will probably be very sociable and prone to excessive sarcasm.  That’s all fine.  They will also, I hope, have dreams and ambitions.  I want them to have the commitment and energy to pursue their passions, and to encourage others to do the same.  I also want them to love people whole-heartedly, and to avoid the commitment-phobic, “we don’t want to put a label on it”, casual relationships that dominate my generation.  I don’t know how things will have changed in the dating world by the time my kids are of age to fancy people, but if they have the self-respect and ability to love that I want them to, then they will know better than to accept sub-standard relationships and undefined entanglements.  If that fails, then hopefully the future father of my children will have a shovel at the ready to discourage would-be unsuitable suitors.

There are loads of other little bits and pieces that I want to teach my children, such as how to ride a bicycle and where babies come from, but these five lessons represent my future parenting priorities.  I also realise that this blog has essentially been a vehicle for me to extol the virtues of my lovely family, but I don’t think that’s surprising given that they are the people who shaped my childhood.  I owe them a lot, and I can’t wait for my future children to meet them.

Have a cracking Monday!