Tag Archives: exams

Morals from Monsters

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  

As I said in this post, day trips are brilliant, and yesterday’s was no exception.  I had a very successful meeting, went for some delicious food with my friends, and then we went all touristy and messed around on Brighton pier.  The last ride we went on was the ghost train, which is what I’d like to to use as a slightly odd starting point today.

The ghost train was my favourite part of yesterday’s trip.  D’you know what’s weird about that?  I didn’t even want to go on it at first.  One of my friends was very keen, but I was pretty reluctant because I hate everything horror-related.  But the train ride was a brilliant combination of quite jumpy (lots of stuff made us scream, even though it was mostly in surprise) and gloriously awful (lots of terrible, clunky puppets that made us laugh hysterically as soon as we’d finished screaming).

I think a lot of people find life scary, particularly those who are still working out their post-uni plan or a specific career path.  We don’t know what we’re doing, where we’re going to live or what to pursue.  As children we were led along the SATs-GCSEs-A Levels pathway with very carefully worked out stops for coursework, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the always-awkward sex education lessons.  In other words, we always knew exactly what we were doing, even if it made us roll our eyes and start doodling on our notebooks.  

When you get out of education you have to start planning things based on your own timings, not end of term exams or essay deadlines.  Some people take to this like a duck to pancakes, but for some of us it’s more difficult to establish our own way of working.  How do we know how well we’re doing when there are no parents’ evenings?  How can we tell if our careers are progressing at a good pace unless we are graded?  When does it become unacceptable to own (and use) a Thunderbirds lunch box?

I’m not suggesting that adult life should be run like a school – no more navy and yellow uniforms for me, thank you so very much Watford Grammar School for Girls – but I think that the lack of objective structure to real life is a bit of a shock to the system after education.  Not knowing exactly what to do is pretty scary. 

A lot of the big things about adult life are like getting on a rubbish ghost train: you’re not sure what to expect, it could be pretty scary, and there’s no real way of knowing which direction you’re going in.  On a brighter note, the scary bits can be funny afterwards, and it’s all a lot easier to cope with if you’ve got a good friend with you.  I cannot believe that I learned a life lesson from a rubbish ghost train.

Have a gorgeous Thursday.  I hope you have the mother of all lunches today.

Peter Pan Possibilities

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Hello, lovely reader.  Are you having a nice day so far?

I’m very lucky that I came home from Edinburgh and got to see lots of my favourite people straight away.  It was an excellent way to stave off the post-Fringe blues.  As I type this I am sitting in my living room with two of my closest friends, talking about wedding shoes and boys and cheese (obviously).  We have a Sex and the City DVD on in the background and a lot of food on the table.  We are also all creative types doing bits and pieces of work on our laptops, so it’s a productive day as well as a very enjoyable one.  I am very happy right now.

Yesterday was not quite so good – I got a bit mopey about having to deal with real-life responsibilities again, and told my friend Laura that I didn’t want to be a grown up.  Her response was “Being a grown up is great.  It’s exactly the same as being a child, but you don’t have to answer to your parents.”

I decided to look on the bright side (as per the recommendation of those charming Monty Python chaps), and have a think about what some of the small but significant benefits of being a grown up actually are, particularly those that would have massively appealed to us as children.  Here are a few of my favourites:

1) You can stay up until 4am watching The Vicar of Dibley drinking Cava if you want to (which may or may not be what we did last night).  Bedtimes are a thing of the past.

2) You can do a massive jigsaw puzzle whenever you feel like it, and you don’t have to put it away until you want to.

3) You can have serious, adult conversations about life, love etc. AND you can have the same silly conversations as you did when you were a kid.  Example: “I don’t understand why anyone would bring up politics on a first date.”  “No, me neither.  Who do you think invented cheesecake?  I mean, it was a great idea, but it’s a bit of a random thing to make.”

4) Your household organisation system is entirely your own.  (There is a bizarre satisfaction to be had from deciding where to keep your mugs.)

5) You go on trips to museums, take long walks and read books because you actually want to, not because your parents or teachers are forcing you to.

6) You don’t have to do exams.  That’s a big one.

7) It doesn’t matter what kind of state you come home in, because no one is going to ground you.

8) Dinner can be whatever you fancy.  If you are anything like me and Ash, that means that a “sensible” dinner can be as simple as mozzarella dippers and Diet Coke.

9) If you decide that you want to wear a party dress on a Monday afternoon or pyjamas on a Saturday night, you are no longer restricted by school uniforms and parental advice.

10) You don’t have to worry about how bad your acne is going to be when you hit puberty, or whether or not sex is fun, or who you’re going to be when you grow up, because you’re already there and most of the scary, new things have already happened.

The thing about being a grown up is that it is difficult, but it’s also a lot of fun.  I think we should all try to enjoy the good stuff and be proud of ourselves for handling the tricky bits.  We might not get to be Peter Pan in terms of ageing, but we can certainly aim for his attitude.

Have a beautiful Thursday.

Qualified for Life

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Hello, you marvellous creature.  How’s the world been treating you this week?

One of the consequences of working on a play like Chris is Dead – “an awkwardly funny, shamelessly honest story about love, loss and splitting the phone bill”, if you’re interested- is that it reminds me and the cast of how unprepared we feel for life’s big events.

As we get older we are more and more likely to come across situations that require a lot from us, whether that’s mentally (“oh dear God, A Levels”), physically (“oh dear God, Freshers’ Week”) or emotionally (“oh dear God, the Friends finale”).  The bizarre thing is that, A Levels aside, we never feel that our qualifications actually qualify us to deal with what life throws at us, do we?

When I was doing a Paediatric First Aid course a couple months ago, I freely admit that I never expected to have to use much (if any) of the information.  When I ran into a genuine First Aid issue at work a couple of weeks later, I felt pretty sick.  I knew I had the know-how somewhere in my head, but what if I forgot something really important?  What if I got it wrong?

I did remember what to do, and the child was fine, but the point is that I felt shockingly under-prepared, even though I had technically been trained.  How much worse is it to have to deal with emergency situations that we can’t possibly be trained up for?

You can’t take a course in Guiding a Friend Through Their Spiritual Epiphany (Diploma) or do a GCSE in Moving House Without Getting Completely Destroyed by Stress (and Inexplicably Losing the Kettle).  There are no night schools for those of us who don’t know what to say to a bereaved loved one, and no one has yet thought to suggest a degree in the whys and wherefores of navigating a tricky divorce.  This seems impractical, unfair and, frankly, a perfectly decent enterprise concept gone to waste.

Everyone is afraid that they are under-qualified for life.  For example, my mum has five kids, a mortgage and her own food mixer, but she would be the first to admit that she doesn’t feel like a grown-up.  Even so, she has always managed to handle scary/difficult life situations brilliantly.  As long as we are doing our best, we’re probably handling the situation as well as anyone could expect or require of us.  In a way, life experience and ageing in general is our nebulous equivalent to gaining a foundation degree in Responding to Crises Without Completely Losing It & Actually Coming Out of the Whole Thing Pretty Well.

It might not be as reassuring as a bona fide certificate with signatures and foil seals and whatnot, but trusting yourself to be up to the challenge is a massive part of dealing with whatever the issue is.  Even if you’ve somehow lost a kettle.

Have a truly splendid Wednesday.

“I Made A Friend!”

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Good morning, and congratulations on making it all the way to Friday!  I hope your week has been productive and filled with first-rate conversation.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012 was one of the most challenging, stressful, enjoyable and amazing experiences of my life so far.  Of the many things I took away from that month of madness, the one I think I am most pleased about is that it taught me to be happy about going to the theatre by myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I almost always go to the theatre with a friend – in a few hours I am off to see Titus Andronicus with one of my best friends from university, in fact – but at the Fringe you see four or five shows a day, and it’s impossible for everyone to see everything they want to unless they split up.

A few months ago I went to see 1984 at the Almeida Theatre, and I went by myself.  An unexpectedly joyous side effect of this excursion was that I got chatting to the chap sitting next to me, who turned out to be an actor with whom I got on very well.  I came home to my flat mate that night saying “I made a friend!” in the excited tones of a six year-old girl, which amused her greatly.  However, she went to a vlogging event today where she had exactly the same experience, and it was lovely to hear her gleeful description of making a brand new friend in her mid-twenties.

We all have friends from various walks of life: primary and secondary school, college, university, work, and in my case, a summer school for gifted and talented teenagers (I’ll tell you about it later).  These people have seen us grow up and go from being starry-eyed youngsters to bleary-eyed adults.  They have been with us through crises, triumphs, boredom, hangovers, exams, dinner parties and summer days in the park.  A shared history with a friend is a wonderful thing.

The thing about these friends is that they have known you for long enough to make an educated assessment of how much they like you and want to spend time with you.  They have years of experience of your whims and ways under their belts, so to a certain extent you know that they have a firm grasp of who you are deep down.  Someone you went to Brownies with is not going to judge you based on a moment of verbal incontinence that happens in your twenties, for example.

Making friends as an adult – whether they’re a new colleague or a stranger at the theatre – is an added bonus to the strange situations life throws at us, because these fully-formed people meet you and make a judgement about being friends with you based purely on who you are now.  They don’t know anything you’ve done in the past, the places you’ve travelled to or the greatest successes you’ve had.  They decide to like you based entirely on what you say and do in that first moment of meeting, and that is just brilliant.

Your friends are absolutely right to love you for who you have been, but your new friends are equally correct in liking you for who you are now.  Clearly, the result of your endeavours to become a proper grown-up person have worked a lot better than you could have imagined.

Have a genuinely spectacular Friday.

Twenty-Four Going on Sixteen

Hello and welcome to Wednesday!  I hope your week is treating you extremely well so far.

Last night two actor friends of mine came round for the first rehearsal of a short play that we’re performing in Camden in April.  The piece is about two people whose friendship is on the rocks, because they’re no longer sure what they want from each other.  The rehearsal went really well and we had a lot of fun (especially a certain unnamed actor who got a very serious case of the giggles), but we also had a very interesting discussion about relationships, friendships and how our feelings make us behave.

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As you can see, we took the rehearsal very seriously.  Anyway, as those of you who read yesterday’s blog will already know, my friends and I are not fond of fancying people.  It’s difficult and stressful and it makes us feel unnecessarily girly (and yes, that includes my male friends).  Apart from the obvious vulnerability that goes with having feelings for someone, I think that one of the problems my generation has with the entire dating thing is that it makes us feel like we’re still sixteen.  Even in our mid-twenties, when we have  a fair amount of emotional experience under our belts, we’re still not entirely sure what we’re doing or what the other person is thinking.  That’s hard to process.  How can we not have conquered this in a decade?

We as a generation have been programmed to aim high: we’re fighting against a tidal wave of economic uncertainty, we have to fight hard to get jobs (and even interviews) in a way that not many generations have had to do before, and we are annually told that our excellent A Level grades don’t mean anything.  Of course the exams are getting easier; why would we be getting cleverer or more conscientious?  It’s not like we’re trying to succeed at life or anything.  OH NO WAIT.

If we are so good at working hard for professional success, why are we so bad at coping with our personal lives?  When we were discussing this last night, one of my actors made a very good point: to a certain extent, we have control over our professional progress.  We might not always get the jobs or the opportunities that we want or think we deserve, but to a degree fate favours the people who put the hours in.  When it comes to relationships, friendships and other people in general, we have absolutely no control over how they feel about us.  Sure, we can dress nicely, smile a lot and be the best possible version of ourselves, but there’s no equity involved: being as awesome as you can be doesn’t guarantee that someone will like you.  Unfair, but true.

The bizarrely reassuring thing about this whole situation is that it gives us all a level playing field: nobody feels completely sorted when it comes to this stuff, and even the highest-flying executive can be baffled by a crush.  We have learned a lot since we were teenagers, but no one has yet conclusively proved how feelings work, so at least we’re not alone in our confusion.

Have a wonderful day, and make sure you have something delicious for dinner.