I follow a handful of blogs, and this is definitely one of my favourites! Having blown a job interview yesterday, I was in definite need of some cheering up, and this post did the trick! These frogs and toads range from so cute, to so sad and unfortunate-looking they’re adorable, to downright spectacular!
I don’t have any actual research to hand to back this up, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that in a lot of situations negative experiences are more easily remembered than positive ones. I’ve definitely read marketing literature claiming that a bad review does X-times more damage than a positive review does good; and from a personal point of view if you asked me to rhyme off stupid or embarrassing decisions I’ve made or situations I’ve been in, I could recall these a lot more quickly than I could positive experiences. That’s not to say I would struggle to remember positive experiences – just that the horrific frightening/awkward/embarrassing ones are more vividly prominent within my memory bank. That sounds a bit depressing; but I prefer to think that rather than this being a human tendency towards negativity, it’s probably a sound survival-instinct technique. If I’m an animal and I end up in a dangerous/ frightening/life-threatening situation, it’s very important that I have the capacity to clearly recall this, and can avoid actions that would put me in that same position again. (I have absolutely no research to back that up, but it seems like a reasonable proposition at the very least.)
Regardless of the whys and wherefores, given that it seems to be much easier to remember the negative life-choices, I think it’s worthwhile celebrating the positive decisions as and when these occur – be they big ones or pretty inconsequential. So, at one end of the scale there are things like going to Uni, going travelling etc. which are bigger life decisions that I’m glad I made. Then there are the smaller things like starting playing rugby again or joining the concert band, which made me a bit nervous initially, but I’m really enjoying and I’m glad I took the plunge to do them. Then there are those investments in time, effort or money which I’ve undergone in the knowledge that they would subsequently benefit me in whatever capacity: be that anything from buying a manatea tea diffuser – it’s so cute while the tea’s diffusing!!!!; to organising my (coughandboyfriendface’scough) paperwork (coughandbedsheetscough) – now we can find things when we want them and there are (for the time being) no longer piles on every surface. And then there are times when I deliberate and make a decision which works out well, and I am absolutely vindicated in making that choice – for example, yesterday I was doing interview preparation, after some consideration decided to take a break to watch the Ireland vs New Zealand rugby match, and am so very very glad I did because (heart-breaking though it was) it was a cracking game. So for all those good life-choices which I have made, be they big or small, I say well-played past-me.
But the most satisfying of all, I think, are those occurrences whereby a decision I’ve made in the past happens to work out very well for completely unanticipated reasons. Having waited until a) boyfriendface was far enough through reading the series that I wouldn’t overtake him and b) I’d finished my dissertation (both good decisions – well-played past me) I am currently reading Game of Thrones. I can be a bit impressionable when I’m reading things. This may be genetic, as I’ve recently discovered that dad has a tendency, not only to adopt accents when re-telling stories, but also to adopt the manner of speech of whatever style of book he’s currently reading. (He’s currently in Shakespeare mode. Mum’s so lucky.) For me, it’s more that certain aspects of different genres begin to sound very fun as I’m reading books, and I feel that my experience of reading the book will be enhanced if I really embrace this. So, if I’m reading period novels, a good swoon now and then works wonders; or, reading Tolkien is a sound reason to partake of a breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper mealtime schedule, and so on. I also always really want a travelling cloak, staff and some sort of matching leather knapsack and coin-pouch when I read Lord of the Rings – I feel that popping into town would be a lot more exciting dressed in such quest-like attire. So, I was reading Game of Thrones and they were ‘breaking fast’ on oats and honey and such like, at which point I took a notion for some homely fare, and after some rummaging in the cupboards discovered that I had at some point in the past few months purchased a box of oatcakes. Well played past-me.
That was a small example. This one’s much better. Age 13 I said that I wanted the Scotland rugby shirt for my birthday. After ordering through the catalogue mum said that the only size currently in stock was the medium men’s long-sleeved shirt, and did I want something else for my birthday, and I could get the rugby shirt for Christmas when other sizes were in? “NOOOOO!!!!” I said, “I want the rugby shirt.” Clearly aged 13 I was not the size of a medium-build male rugby-player. It was massive on me. 13 years later, despite having grown upwards and outwards, I am still not the size of a medium-build male rugby player. While it’s considerably less massive – and the sleeves are considerably shorter, having been subjected to over a decade of nervous chewing watching Scotland play – it’s still too big. However, this means that when I now go to Scotland games, I can fit seven layers on underneath, and therefore stand in a stadium in Edinburgh of a freezing November night, wearing a Scotland shirt as the outer layer, without needing a jacket, and still be cosy.
What luck! What incredible foresight I displayed! This may be my greatest life-decision to date. Well played past-me!!!
You know that way when you hear a word or phrase, or see something, and suddenly you keep hearing or seeing it everywhere? Well, I’ve had a lot of that recently – as if the universe is embracing serendipity like it’s going out of fashion. One of the topics that keeps coming up is ‘geeks’. Susie Dent on Countdown has an ‘Origins of Words’ feature every episode where she discusses the derivation and drift (there ya go dad) in meaning and usage of words. On Thursday’s episode [currently available on 4oD, Thursday 14th Nov, 26mins into the episode], she was discussing the origins and development of the word ‘geek’. Apparently, the first usage of the word ‘geek’ in the 1800s meant someone foolish or offensive (from the Germanic word ‘geck’); it came to be applied to “spotty, unsociable students”; then came to be applied to people who were knowledgeable about computers – and you can see socially there’s been a reclaiming of the word into something positive – geek chic, geek pride etc. – people celebrating their interests, knowledge, and ‘geekiness’.
My mum was talking about a teenage boy she had met whose extensive knowledge of military history and manner when talking on the topic suggested Asperger’s. My dad and I were talking about continuity errors in theatre or film, and the type of person who will not only spot such inconsistencies, but will actively be on the look-out for these. I have a lot of friends who are into their fantasy, sci-fi, comics, role-playing games – all traditionally ‘geeky’ topics. Recently I was at a flat-party held by one of these friends. I didn’t know the vast majority of the people there, but essentially I walked into a room filled with unfortunate looking men (most wearing very thick rimmed glasses), who seemed completely incapable of making eye contact or holding basic conversation with a stranger. Honestly, I was quite taken aback, because for all that I’m aware of the geeky IT stereotype – the concept that programmes like The Big Bang Theory and The IT Crowd are based upon – I’m used to interacting with ‘functioning geeks’ – people who are really into the hobbies and topics mentioned above, but can also function perfectly well on a social level. So essentially, having understood (before Susie’s talk) the drift in implication of the word from ‘obsessive in-depth and socially inept’ to the idea of ‘geek pride’; in my actual real-life experience, I’d never encountered the former to this extent.
I have recently graduated in Information and Library Studies – which for the sake of simplicity I describe to people as essentially being ‘the qualification to be a librarian’. Having been back at Uni last year, and joined the rugby team and concert band, I’ve met a lot of new people and had that ‘so what are you studying?’ conversation multiple times. I’ve been highly entertained by the number of (young) people who, when I’ve told them what I’m studying, have replied, “cool!” So, Librarian = cool. Sure, I think it’s great – but it’s been interesting (and awesome) to see the number of other people who also seem to hold that opinion. Maybe it’s just the circles that I move in, maybe it’s just because it’s a slightly different/niche career choice, maybe this is part of the geek-chic perception.
As I said, I’ve recently graduated…and am currently unemployed. My mood swings vary between optimistic and despondent, interspersed with manic fits of organising my life and immediate surroundings – be those drawers, bookshelves, or boyfriendface’s bedsheets. To my delight I have recently acquired a new and bigger bookcase (well, new to me – it’s from home, and somewhat skew-wickety (a unique blend of skew-whiff and rickety)). I have taken immense pleasure in libraritising (join my campaign to get this verb added to the dictionary) my books. While the idea of using Worldcat and WebDewey to identify or construct Dewey numbers for all my books, and shelving them accordingly, did fleetingly cross my mind, I knew that a) for a personal collection of this size and content, that would not be the most appropriate way of organising these books b) that would not be efficient usage of my resources (i.e. would be a complete waste of time) and c) that would just be sad! When I was doing my undergrad English degree, a girl in one of my classes said she had a friend who organised her books according to ‘which books they would be friends with’. I quite like the idea – and I feel that it has the capacity to incorporate e.g. stylistic associations rather than blanket subject or genres. So my shelves run accordingly: plays and poetry (of which I have few, so I just group them together at the start), non-fiction Christian stuff (again, the odd bits and pieces mum has left with me over lent or advent, plus some C.S Lewis stuff); classic epic stuff (and Canterbury Tales, because I think Canterbury Tales would be friends with those books); Fairy Tales; children’s books and fantasy (which runs Harry Potter, Dark Materials, Narnia, Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, Neil Gaiman, Wicked); then runs into sci-fi/fantasyish comedy (Hitchhiker’s Guide, then Thursday Next series); then comedy and easy reading; which then goes into comedy/crime (Stephanie Plum series followed by Christopher Brookmyre); then thriller/horror/gothic; then because Northanger Abbey would be friends with gothic, but also obviously friends with Jane Eyre/Lorna Doone/Sunset Song; which from there can run into social commentary and dystopia; and then Trainspotting bridges between that and also drugs/violence/messed up (Clockwork Orange, Down the Rabbit Hole, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas); Fear and Loathing being road-trippy (teehee – see what I did there?) can be friends with On the Road, which can go with other coming of age/outcasty character/finding yourself; and so on and so forth…
To quote Simon Pegg:
Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.
Well said Mr Pegg.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a geek. I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as ‘cool’ either – through high school I was far too academic and far too good (behaviour-wise) for that. I’m a big reader. Other things I enjoy include Countdown (it’s fun to play along, and really satisfying when you spot a big word – and I really enjoy Susie’s sections, which, as someone who likes words, I find really interesting); and I really like Pointless – because useless facts are fun. I guess all of these things could be classed as geeky to an extent. However, I am nowhere near geeky enough to be embraced by geeks as one of their own. Although, boyfriendface claims that since I receive a monthly library magazine this makes me geekier than him and his Live Action Role Playing. I disagree based on the fact that it’s a ‘work thing’ as opposed to a hobby. Anyway, I got really excited and happy about organising my bookshelf. Would I be too embarrassed to tell other people about it? No – I am honest about getting excited about books and demonstrating that affection … to an extent.
I also saw a pendant online that read ‘I believe in 398.2’ (which is the Dewey number for fairy tales, folktales and fables). I like fairy tales, folktales, fables, myths and legends; I like organising things; I like references – and I like that I got that reference when I saw it (kind of – I couldn’t have told you offhand the Dewey number for that subject group, but from the phrase I correctly guessed that’s what the reference meant when I saw the necklace). Will I buy it…? Maybe – I quite like it. Would I buy it and wear it in public….? Nnnngggh….
I have an interview on Tuesday. This makes me happy, as sending applications into the ether gets a bit wearing. That said, this is my first interview and I’m approaching it with an attitude of: I’ve gained a good idea of the nature of the job from a contact, and am preparing as best I can, but this is my first interview and I don’t really know what to expect, therefore this will not be the best interview of my life-to-come, but regardless of whether or not I get the job this is a valuable experience.
I’m adopting the same attitude that I applied during my dissertation – and I am fully aware that this comes at the risk of sounding like an overly cheesy/inspirational/positive lifestyle advert – which is that the end result (the final grade in the dissertation; whether I get the job or not) is less important than what I learn and take from the process.
The train of thought gets a bit more tenuous from here, but bear with me. (Actually – even the phrase ‘train of thought’ is a bit generous – there wasn’t really a chronology; more like a collection of fragmented concepts floating around along the lines of ‘focussing on the present’ and ‘living in the moment’, interrupted by the voice of Sir Ian “Gandalf” McKellen in my head: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”) Anyway, amidst all this, I thought about our wee donkey Silver and how mum used to comment on the enforced Zen Buddhism involved in taking Silver anywhere. Basically, there was no rushing Silver. You had to walk at his pace and just enjoy the journey for what it was.
I have memories of walking Silver up to the field: a sunny day; a quiet country road; and the only sounds, the waves on the beach, the gentle clip clopping of unshod hooves on tarmac (and the occasional scuffling as I trip over my own wellies). However long it took to walk that mile or two miles (depending on where we were headed) you just accepted that you’d get there when you’d get there and might as well forget about everything else in the meantime. That was serene and it was relaxing. (That said, journeys were not always this uneventful. Sometimes Silver didn’t want to move at all, and that was not relaxing. That was very irritating.)
I don’t have a smartphone. I generally have my mobile to hand, but I’m not barraged 24/7 by a cacophony of email and social media alerts. Being unemployed, I have a reasonable amount of spare time at the moment (although between rugby, pre-festival extended concert band rehearsals, volunteering at the library, monitoring job vacancy websites, filling in job applications, preparing for interview, and hospital appointments, I feel like I’m not getting my full share of unemployment downtime) but I also don’t organise my time particularly well. Boyfriendface works strange hours, so if he’s off during the day and I want to spend time with him, come the evening when he’s at work and I could be getting on with things I often find it hard to motivate myself and tend to procrastinate with the TV or on the internets instead. I don’t want to knock procrastinating – I hold a great fondness for the wonderful world of pointless things learnt and achieved in pursuit of avoiding the task in hand – but right now I’m finding my procrastination to be distinctly unfulfilling. Watching endless repeats on E4 or flicking through Facebook is, for me right now, time poorly spent. And it’s not relaxing. Don’t get me wrong – in addition to my poorly spent procrastinating time, this week I’ve watched some great films which I hadn’t seen before, had some quality time with boyfriendface, and got a good chunk of useful things done; but given the amount of free time I’ve had recently, the rest of my alone time hasn’t been accompanied by that feeling of serenity and (again, at the risk of going all oaty-floaty) ‘inner peace’.
So – where am I going with this?
I remembered yesterday that the DVD player can, of course, play CDs. It was a light-bulb moment. (Incidentally, not my favourite light-bulb moment of the day – that medal went to the moment where I realised that my attempts to light candles would be signficantly more successful if not accompanied by my absent-minded whistling.) I have a CD player in my bedroom, and my i-pod speakers in the living room (but I really need to put some new tunes on the i-pod). It’s the tiniest, tiniest thing; but just saying to myself ‘if there’s something I want to watch on TV I can watch it; if there’s nothing I actively want to watch on I’ll turn the TV off and make use of the DVD player’s CD playing capabilities instead’. So, this evening I did a bit of work towards my interview. Then when the Sunday night lethargy hit, rather than taking a break with a cup of tea, putting on the TV and then continuing to watch rubbish long after my tea was finished; instead I said, No – I’m going to make a cup of tea (obviously), light all the candles in the world, rediscover a CD I haven’t listened to in ages, and update el blog. It’ll take as long as it takes, but that’s ok. Take your time and enjoy it.