Books I’ve Been Reading Recently Which Have Made An Impression

Books can be – from time to time – exactly what you need to press the re-set button on your life.

Over the past few months I’ve entered a weird sort of limbo, feeling quite low and not having any particular direction to go in – and then acquiring a lot of additional anxiety to add to the mix. Indeed I originally aimed to write this post two months ago, hence why it is dated to two months before I actually got round to finishing writing the entire thing.

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For a brief period of time I tried to re-imagine myself as a travel writer, as one might ascertain from my past few blog posts. Having plenty of spare time, and nothing in particular tying me down to my current residence, I jaunted pretty much wherever I was inspired to go. However, after my most recent trip down to London to volunteer at an animal sanctuary, it was unofficially “the plan” to put another plan in place.

However… one thing I did not account for was the possibility of my mood taking a very sudden downturn – previous existential issues which had been humming in the background of my brain for as long as I can remember suddenly got a lot louder and more urgent, and long story short, I’ve really not been in a very good place recently, brain-wise. Indeed, perhaps it is a good thing that, by this time, I hadn’t acquired any greater commitments to any third parties than a remote part-time gig as a freelance literary study guide writer, with no deadlines set in stone. Because I was about to spend at least a good few weeks getting reacquainted with my old regular companion, anxiety – and its bigger and meaner cousin, existential dread. The extent to which I had failed, repeatedly, to “establish” myself in the greater world’s society and culture, and even just in everyday life (by failing to meet many of the milestones which are normally expected of someone my age), was beginning to weigh heavily upon me. For a good few weeks I could do little other than stay in bed numbing myself with Netflix and Youtube re-runs in a bid to silence the ever-growing voice saying, let’s just say, rather scary things to me.

Whether this would have happened anyway, or whether it was a result of a recent change in medication (which can make you feel much worse in the beginning) I’m still not entirely sure, and I still suffer from recurrent depression and anxiety, only now I can (usually (eventually)) leave my bed, and even the house, at some point during the day. There’s no apparent reason why the very things which had been playing on my mind for a long time should have bothered me so much more but there you go. In a bid to cope, one thing which I ended up doing, which I didn’t realise I was doing all that much of at the time, was reading.

Some of this was work-related, which kept my brain somewhat active, and delayed the spiralling of the thoughts I was beginning to have. But most of it was a bid to seek an escape, and some hope. Below are the books in roughly the order I read them in, except where grouping them together makes better narrative sense.

*For now, I will not apologise for the fact that almost all of these books were acquired via Kindle – when you can’t even get round to renewing your library card and don’t want to risk having to ask someone for books you might be interested in (what a terrible would-be librarian I’ve become!) but still need to read things, then you’ll do things which are normally not quite in line with your principles: for me, that’s giving lots of business to Amazon.*

 

The Humans – Matt Haig

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from the Goodreads website

This author has started to have an increasingly greater influence on my outlook on life. “The Humans” was the first of his books that I read, as part of my study guide writing project, about an alien being from a faraway part of the universe coming to earth with an order to destroy  the main character, Andrew, and take his place while completing the rest of his mission. Initially a coldly rational being who is puzzled by the strange-seeming ways of humans, he begins to slowly adapt and even to come to love his “family”, and ends up protecting them from the very mission which he was originally assigned to. Various aspects of the personality of “Andrew” – the alien – emerge through interactions with the humans around him; he is baffled as to why people eat animals and refuses any meat dishes offered to him (could he be an alien version of a vegan?), why people wear clothes and make certain facial expressions, and otherwise do things for no clear logical reason. The detached perspective on the ways of the human race cast a new light on how people find meaning in life. “Andrew” begins to find it in seemingly small things; music, wine, the poetry of Emily Dickinson (the author and I seem to share a bit of an obsession with Dickinson) – and ultimately in a newfound love for his family. The “rules for life” at the end of the book, which “Andrew” writes for his son, are full of deceptively profound pieces of advice, and it’s quite difficult to be honest to not try out at least a few.

 

The Last Days of Night – Graham Moore

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from the Goodreads website

Another book read for the study guide writing project, “The Last Days of Night” chronicles the dawn of the era of electrical lighting, and the resulting legal war being waged by proclaimed light-bulb inventor Thomas Edison on his immediate rival George Westinghouse. Precocious young lawyer Paul Cravath, attempting to make a name for himself far away from his humble beginnings, is tasked with defending Westinghouse, which seems like an increasingly impossible task given the ruthlessness with which Edison is prepared to defend his patent. Meanwhile New York has become, literally, a beacon of light in the new world of America as Edison’s bulbs, despite their dangerous direct current electricity, begin to adorn the streets, bringing new light – and resulting new possibilities – to the people. Paul rises to the challenge, and soon encounters another major figure from the era, Nikola Tesla, who has developed brilliant and unprecedented visions for scientific progress, including the safe harnessing of alternating current which would see safe and reliable lighting being brought to everyone in the country, and eventually the world. Paul’s attention is soon waylaid by the appearance of actress Agnes Huntington, who seeks his legal assistance for another case and is soon shown to be hiding a secret past life.

The main thing which drew me into this book was the portrayal of the characters, who have dialogue almost exactly of the style which would be used today, and indeed the author has a knack for making the world of late nineteenth century New York feel just as vivid, relevant and contemporary as it is today. The secret desire of Agnes to shed her stuffy facade and cut loose into the less reputable corners of New York high society shows a flicker of rebellion which contradicts the flat and lifeless image which many have of that era. Another key detail which gives the narrative an additional relevance is the use of quotes from key modern figures in science and technology, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the internet (at least as we know it today)), which effectively foreshadow the events shortly to come. As a fan of historical fiction (when done just the right way) the juxtaposition of old and new automatically catches my interest and creates the feeling that the past is not so much a foreign country as a thing which is often overlooked and misunderstood by many, and takes a skilled writer to bring back to life.

 

 

 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind – Yuval Harari

 

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from the Goodreads website

 

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow – Yuval Harari

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from the Goodreads website

*I’ll get round to reviewing these two books shortly. They require quite a bit more dissection than I feel capable of right now but trust me – they’re quite something*

 

How To Stop Time – Matt Haig

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from the Goodreads website

The most recent release by the author, “How To Stop Time” is a story about a man called Tom who has lived for over four hundred years, due to having an extremely rare condition – “anageria” – which delays ageing and vastly prolongs life. Over the most recent years he has been starting his life over every eight years in a different part of the world under a different identity, and this time he has chosen to be a history teacher at a school in London. He carries the unimaginable emotional burden of hundreds of years of love, grief and strife, having personally known some of the figures who we consider to be icons today, such as Shakespeare. He meets Camille, a fellow teacher at the school who bears her own emotional burden and with whom Tom begins to fall in love, a thing which he never felt able to do ever again. Almost continually on the brink of having his secret identity uncovered, Tom attempts to come to terms with his past and his condition, and tries to find a way to seek meaning in an unnaturally long life.

In contrast to “The Humans”, “How To Stop Time” casts a new perspective on the significance of the human lifespan by provoking thought on how we experience the passage of time. As the former invites you to imagine landing on Earth from an unfathomable distance, the latter invites you to imagine living several consecutive lifetimes, and what such a life would do physically and emotionally to a person. Also, it has a way of making even the oldest-feeling person feel young, which is something which would benefit me seeing as I feel old all the time.

 

Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig

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from the Goodreads website

This is a book which I put off reading for quite a while, but one day recently, decided that I needed to read as soon as possible. “Reasons To Stay Alive” is the personal account of the author’s struggle with severe depression, recalling the worst of the time with emotional clarity, interspersed with thoughts and musings on the nature of depression and how it is perceived and treated by society at large. As someone who has done battle with anxiety and depression on and off (mostly on) throughout my life, this is a deeply reassuring – and of huge value to many more people – book to have to hand when things feel particularly rough and unmanageable. At first worried that the book would contain mere platitudes on the “meaning of life” and how “life is a precious gift and we must live every day to the fullest extent possible” (which to me is not so much helpful as demoralising because if it really were that easy why is not literally everyone doing it by now?), it instead contained a gently but unrelentingly honest examination of the various nuances in mental state which the author experienced on a day to day basis, when simple tasks seemed impossible and the world took on an intimidating hue. It also recalls how the “cure” for depression did not appear suddenly, or indeed even be really a cure; rather the good days eventually began to outnumber the bad ones, small but memorable steps towards the light were made and the author found solace, primarily, in writing. The resounding message is that depression is a common part of the human condition and that it is up to ourselves to find out what gives our own lives meaning. That’s something I’ve been trying to work on for quite a long time now…

 

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

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from the Goodreads website

Having watched the show “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” in my teeny-bopper years, I was intrigued to find a “re-imagining” of the show in graphic novel form whilst quite urgently seeking out more reading (i.e. distracting) material on Amazon. The instant download option – and the resulting instant gratification – is just too irresistible for someone who now, more often than not these days, does not leave the house. This was… quite a departure from the TV show.

This version is basically an R-rated version of a very PG-rated show, in which Sabrina is a member of a satanic coven of witches who are not averse to casting terrifying curses on, and even killing, those who interfere with them in any way. An initially innocent high school romance turns rapidly into a murder mystery, and Sabrina as a young novice witch must try to navigate this world. Exactly how this will be done remains to be seen.

 

The Little Mermaid – Metaphrog

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from the Goodreads website

Metaphrog are a Scottish graphic artist duo who produce rich and vibrant illustrations, often to accompany traditional fairytales. Their latest, “The Little Mermaid”, tells the original Hans Christian Andersen version (quite different from the Disney one), of the mermaid who gave up her entire life (at first figuratively then eventually literally) for a young man she rescued at sea. Of course I did not read the book for the traditional tale but rather for the evocative imagery accompanying the narrative. For a while I considered a move into graphic novel writing but I never felt confident enough in my illustration skills – once upon a time I was quite adept at using Photoshop but I’m living proof that if you do not continually maintain your skills they will quite rapidly deteriorate until it is as if you never had them in the first place. I consider myself a fan of Metaphrog now and I feel like they will inspire me in the future.

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Neil Gaiman once dubbed the humble book as an “empathy machine”, through which anyone can experience another perspective simply by reading. As someone who, more often than is desirable, misses out on the opportunity to flex and exercise my empathy muscle in a more obvious and active way (say by contributing more creative output via actually writing fiction, as I have long aimed but somehow felt unable to do) I settle for absorbing whatever I can, in terms of literature, and trying to write (or photograph, or compose, or something) about my own perspective, in the hopes that it will have any resonance to anyone out there.

Reading – if and when I cannot write, which is the case an embarrassing amount of the time – at least helps me to feel tangentially involved in the wider world (I think the closest term I can think of is the “zeitgeist”  but that sounds unbearably pompous but hopefully you get what I mean) and as if the spark which will finally kick me into action is waiting on a random page – that it’s just a matter of keeping going. Sometimes that really seems to be all you can do because… well, just because.

 

 

 

 

 

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FOMO vs YOLO

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*This post was originally totally different, but I’ve had something of a turnaround in opinion in the past few weeks or so, for reasons which I won’t bore you with right now. It was originally meant to be a critique of the pressure to go travelling without regards to personal circumstances which may hinder someone’s ability to do so, but having read even more on the subject since publishing, I’d done something of a 180 and would like to present the new post here.*

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has been plaguing me for many years now, for at least half my life, and a lot of the time I feel like I’m always in the wrong place at the wrong time, having *just* missed out on a life-changing opportunity by the skin of my teeth, and that if I’d only done this or that thing everything would’ve been different and awesome, and that it’s all my fault for not trying hard enough – “don’t you know it’s SO easy now in this eternally connected world so you have NO EXCUSE!” – and generally not being “savvy” enough to what’s hip and happening.

In recent times I’ve tried to combat this by applying for endless jobs (many of which I know deep down I’ve no chance in hell of getting), going on trips here and there (within the limits of what I can afford) because I do like to every so often, but also often just to prove to/remind myself and everyone that I can, and following/tweeting people constantly and obsessively on social media. But even then it feels like the “party” is always just around the corner – somewhere – and only just out of earshot, and that if I just stay alert and accessible at all times then I won’t be the person I once was, who used to miss out on so much and who didn’t even have the privilege of realising this until it was too late.

Somewhere along the line, I got the message that as long as I showed up, looked interested, and was ready for the action at any time, then the rest would follow, even if my head and my heart were a million miles away, or didn’t even want to be close by. From my earliest days spent actively attempting to socialise and to fit in, what I wanted and what I was interested in, the things which I never even got round to really sharing with anyone else, eventually gave way to an abstract idea of how to do things the right way. After all, if everyone else is managing to do the things you love doing even better than you, then you must be missing a trick somewhere…

After half a lifetime slowly neglecting what truly interested me, in favour of the *chance* to be what mattered to everyone else, it’s a long way back again. A long, vague and lonely trail, barely discernible in the ground below and before me, leading and tapering into the distance. Not even definitely going anywhere.

How to get the mojo back again, however, of what I really want from life – which I only have a vague memory of now – that is something which I may need to embark upon a whole new journey to find out if it’s even possible to recapture. But I am (very) slowly but surely attempting to piece together some semblance of the person I was before FOMO started kicking in and kicking everything about me out of my life.

One thing I do love these days – and don’t have to force – is photography. I love going to a new and interesting place (when I’m in the right mindset to do so), taking a great picture from an unusual angle, and revisiting the scene on my screen later at my leisure. Presenting, arranging, contextualising and – urgh – *promoting* said photography, on the other hand, is the current challenge.

Also, I’ve found that whenever I try my hand at anything new, I find that I fall into a pattern of starting out with a fresh enthusiasm, albeit tempered with an increasing apprehension of learning new things as I advance in life, and before too long becoming so frustrated with my sense of ineptitude and inability to “get into the flow” that it just becomes one more thing to add to my Quit Collection. More recently, as I’ve attempted to stretch my wings and venture further from home, travelling is becoming the latest Thing where I start to feel that old familiar apprehension. Just when I feel like I’m “onto something”, the feeling that I’ve missed something crucial and major starts to creep in – that I could’ve had the “true experience” if you’d only done all the things which make you extremely uncomfortable – until you end up feeling that you might as well not even try.

However recently I’ve started to “chance” upon the odd website where I’ve started to see a more heartening attitude which hints at the possibility that I might not be doing everything completely wrong. The message – if it can be called one – appears to be that, while there is so much to be said for going “off the beaten track”, it becomes problematic when it reaches the stage of condescension of those who don’t do everything the hardest way conceivable just for the “true adventure” – travel snobs, if you like. For example, I love to travel (when it’s a good time for me) but due to my particular circumstances – my need for my own space, for example – would struggle to forgo a private room, even just a tiny one, for an extended period of time. Or indeed, frankly, any length of time. However, on pretty much every travel blog I’ve encountered the praises are duly sung of hostelling and “mingling” effortlessly with others there, likes bees to honey. (I’m pretty sure that’s an acceptable vegan analogy, no honey being stolen by humans here!)

However, not all experiences are going to be the same for every person, and indeed what would even be the point in travelling if you did literally exactly the same thing as everyone else. The whole “beach party in Goa” and “yoga on top of a fjord in Norway” and “being at one with the trees in a place where the writer clearly drove to while denouncing all forms of technology while tweeting and clearly having someone taking their “selfie”, while undeniably a positive experience for whoever enjoyed it enough to shout about it from the rooftops, is becoming just a sufficiently recurrent theme to give momentary pause, in which to reflect as to whether this is really what one wants to do, rather than what they feel like they have to do, in order to have that truly Instagram-friendly lifestyle.

What I find especially encouraging about the article is that it dispels many of the myths which women are faced with all too often, and which I’ve allowed to permeate my perception of the world – that it’s simply not safe out there. That I’m at risk of making a fool of myself at best, and at worst… well, in a pretty bad situation. With or without my life. In the end, it seems to be a case of discerning the difference between inspiration and pressure – between the voice inside and the demands coming from outside. That can be a challenge in itself a lot of the time.

For now, FOMO and YOLO (You Only Live Once, for those not up to date on their annoying lingo) remains an act of delicate balance, one which with my lack of co-ordination, will require significantly more practice.

Choice, or the Road Not Taken

I don’t know where to go from here. To be honest I’m having trouble trying to figure out how to write this post in a way which makes sense.

Time has a way of producing, at its convenience, the gift of Choice. Except of course for the fact that, when this type of Choice is presented, without context, boundaries or suggestion, to someone Like Me – someone who struggles to decide what to wear that day, or even whether or not to go out at all that day – then that choice becomes quite redundant. It’s a bit like having a million people calling to a dog who is equally fond of each individual person, but because they cannot begin to decide which one to go to – each imploring and welcoming individual person – the poor dog just sits there, whimpering and in desperate need of a lie down. They ignore everyone because they cannot decide. They have no logical reason to choose one over the other, so they choose Nothing.

I have Ideas of things I might want to do if I could only filter out the millions upon billions upon trillions of other possibilities of things I could also be, or should be, doing. However, since I cannot filter out these other endless ideas, I never get round to sustaining, or even starting, almost any of these Ideas I have. I didn’t even get round to writing this post, the seed of which had germinated in my mind a while ago, until I arrived home where I could concentrate, because away from home I’m basically useless and never get anything productive done.

I am the only one I know with this endless choice, the theoretical freedom to do anything, that I feel like my inability to actually Make Something of myself is utterly wasted on me, when it could be bestowed upon plenty of people I know far more deserving of such a thing.

It brings to mind the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken.

I studied this poem, shockingly, only for the first time a few weeks ago, as part of an online distance poetry course (one of the little projects I’ve been trying out recently and, at the time of writing, failing to complete), I certainly don’t recall ever being exposed to it during high school or even uni. It also happens to be one of the most misunderstood poems of all time, according to the convenors of the course (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, via Coursera, if anyone wants to look them up to find out more), in that it is often read as a praising of the joys of choosing the road less travelled, by virtue of it simply being the less travelled one. Going against the grain. While that often does have some value in and of itself – it can enable a unique perspective which can be shared with others by way of comparison – what the poem is about Really, according to the course, is simply Making The Choice.

The poem begins:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler” – we can all agree that this means that we cannot choose two paths in life at once. So far, so simple. But when, after considering each path equally, the person claims that the passing of each path “Had worn them really about the same”, this already is quite telling of the fact that even the “road less travelled”, as is the common interpretation, is more or less as travelled – in some sense – as the more travelled one. Even this person refuses to fully commit to a choice – “Oh, I kept the first for another day!” – mentally bookmarking it for a return which they, in the following two lines, retract by admitting that there will be no returning.

The poem, essentially, reveals the person to be deliberating over a choice, but – crucially – making one anyway. One which will be looked back on “ages and ages hence”, even if it is the wrong one. There is no mention of the outcome of the choice – regret or pride – but a Choice Has Been Made, by one who had all their options presented to them equally and without influence.

But even in this case, it was one or the other option. Not literally millions upon billions upon trillions upon infinity. All vying for one’s attention, and getting pissy when you don’t pick them over everything else…

So I’ve had to basically take shots in the dark, one by one, picking a direction and hoping that it doesn’t turn out to be the Wrong Choice. It always feels like it anyway, no matter what I choose. Sometimes the choice is so overwhelming that I in fact shut down and can’t choose anything, not feeling able to do anything other than allow myself to be pulled along with the current, with no idea where it’s leading. Well maybe some vague idea, but not something I want to think about anytime soon.

I said earlier that I do Nothing. Most of the time. Well sometimes I force myself to do Something. Usually a big thing, quite disproportionate to my “everyday” life, as and when I have the time and resources to be able to. Sometimes I find that the only way to get anything at all done in life is to, once in a while, treat it like an architecture project and to construct one piece by piece, and then just see what happens when I step in…

A few months ago I went volunteering at an animal sanctuary in Spain. I had a good time, as you can see here:

Last week I decided, on a whim, to go to London and Brighton because there was nothing stopping me.

I had a good time, as you can see here:


But I also began to wonder, the whole time I was there – and indeed anywhere – of all the places where I wasn’t, all the things I was not doing, all the people I was not being… when context and purpose become all too easy to manipulate, and where everything soon returns to just the way it was before in any case. With the exception of simply being a little further along in life.

Sylvia Plath also came pretty close to describing my Situation a long time before I was even born:

So right now the best I can do is continue taking shots in the dark, hoping that The One will manifest into existence, giving my Brain Of Infinite Possibility a bit of peace for once.

References: Sylvia Plath on Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/yoursuntruly/first-attempt-at-pinning/

Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/resources/learning/core-poems/detail/44272

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Hello again, and welcome to more of me.

Some news which will considerably change life in the near future: my sister and brother-in-law are expecting a baby in the middle of 2015, so congratulations to them of course. 🙂 They already have a considerable “family” of non-human creatures, (one of whom I like to have as a guest at mine every so often, and hopefully she feels the same), so this first human addition to the family for a long time is one I’m looking forward to, as this one looks set to be one of the healthiest and most “aware” people to join the world, right from the beginning.

On a more selfish note – still on the postgraduate course (just about clinging on) since the last post – it’s been an intensive and often very stressful stretch of time, frequently involving an “I Just Can’t Do It Anymore” mentality, but it looks like there are rewards to be gained should I continue hanging in there. I’ve had the chance, for the first time in I can’t remember how long, to meet and work directly with some cool people, many of whom are from far-flung corners of the globe and have clearly got the talent and the drive to come all the way over to Glasgow, with the awesome weather and everything, to study, on top of, well, all the actual studying. We are having to learn things which I had previously assumed to be dead and buried back in the recesses of high school (alongside the particularly acute awkwardness of my general existence at the time), along with a whole bunch of skills which I’d never even associated with being a librarian.

Apparently, librarians are meant to be not only gatekeepers of information, but defenders and promoters of public education, and generally trying to include all people in as much of what goes on in libraries as possible. Given the world we live in, so very fraught with tension and conflicting beliefs regarding freedom of speech and information, this looks set to be a very challenging job to take on. As I continue to wonder whether I’d personally be cut out for such a role, I continue to appreciate the chance to learn skills, each one a string which I can add to my proverbial bow, and ones which I need to learn quickly, as time insists on continuing on.

Where this has left my writing is hard to say; while I’ve had far less time to actually read or write (two of my favourite things to do) anything not to do with the course, what I have written during this time has been quite different from what my “style” has come to be. I’m now basically juggling the writing and the course, not sure which will end up being my “thing”, if indeed either of them will be. I’m just hoping to accomplish as much as possible without any screws coming loose, so wherever that will end up leading…

This time of year – having come round with such a velocity it’s frightening – has always been a weird one for me. My birthday is in a few days’ time (if you don’t know what age I’ll be I’m not telling), thus kicking off the “have I done enough by this age” contemplation. The short and emphatic answer to this is “NO”, and it looks like it always will be, with an additional one, “How the hell did I even get this far in life in the first place?” becoming more commonplace… But so much time has been lost to this feeling that the only thing left to do is to just keep trying to do all the things I can. In a moment of probably-deliberate distraction, I went on a mini-outing to Kelvingrove Park (in the background being the University of Glasgow, the backdrop to another phase of my life) and took some photographic evidence of my being there.

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River Kelvin and Glasgow Uni

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Snowdroppage

I’m a bit of a snowdrop fan, as you can see. Whether it’s to do with them coming up around my birthday or at the start of spring or otherwise, I’m not sure. It seems like I’m destined to never be too far away from any given university. Hopefully that will start paying off a bit more soon. Until next time!

A Not-So-Happy Ending

It’s been a strange time of late. I’ve been trying to finish my novel (not just a novella) in the midst of a total creative drought which shows now signs of ending, and then, somehow, my fiance and I ended up separating 😦

I won’t go into go into details here, or go all “woe is me”, but it’s been confusing and disorienting for all involved and has forced further changes in our lifestyle. With things so uncertain, he has had to move on to where the job prospects and other good things are (not here) and as for me. I’ll let you know what else happens soon…

In the meantime, here’s a photo of a nearby “poetry garden” I took about a month ago, complete with unwitting pigeon:

I will start getting up early again, if only to see nice things such as this here

I will start getting up early again, if only to see nice things such as this here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-Reflection

Posted on May 12, 2013

Exactly a year ago, in my post “A Bit Of Reflection”, I pondered a key turning point in my life, and where I would subsequently be a year on. This, today, is a year on – how time whizzes by :/

Some things are more or less what I expected them to be:

My parents went ahead and took over the inn that they’d had their eye on, and after LOTS of trials and obstacles things are starting to pull themselves together, and it’s turning out to be a most successful venture (plus somewhere to escape every so often).

My fiance and I are still engaged – we’ve still had our respective hardships in our lives which have overlapped into each other’s life, which has sometimes made for a wobbly crossing, but we’ve managed to find a way to keep going, and at the time of writing, are still going strong

Some things just… are:

I graduated from uni in June, shortly after the original posting. My GPA was quite a bit lower than I was hoping (and expecting), mostly due to the difficult birth of my dissertation, plus dropping a couple of classes as a result a sudden bout of apathy – perhaps unwisely. But I still managed to graduate with an M.A., and have taken pride of place among the millions of other graduates who are floundering around, over-qualified for many jobs but under-qualified for that perfect one…

Some things are not quite what I expected them to be:

I’ll admit that I had assumed that I’d be well on the way to a successful career in writing. That is partly true – I gained an internship, and further experience down the line, in content writing, a little of which was paid but most of which was voluntary. But in terms of creative writing (nanowrimo for example), that has been considerably more of a struggle than I thought it would be.

Lack of confidence in my writing, plus few impartial and willing people available to proofread and give constructive feedback, have resulted in my writing remaining pretty much for my eyes only. I dare not even self-publish before taking this step, for fear that something I love, and have taken time to create and nurture, will be torn apart callously by some unknown figure, whether or not justifiably.

I have the continually nagging feeling that… despite all the above, I still should have done something by this point in time. It’s weird how long one can continue to postpone. A year ago, if I thought I’d still be at this stage, I’d have administered a swift kick to the arse (if it were physically possible)  and been like “COME ON ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! :{”

I guess this would now be a good time, without leaving it any longer anymore, to actually put something out there. Like, for proper digestion and contemplation. And hopefully a receptive audience. If there’s one actually out there.

Oh well, time to keep on plugging away. Once again.

A Bit Of Reflection

Posted on May 12, 2012

Four years ago today – almost to the hour – I reached the end of a long downward spiral which unfolded during my first year of uni. After an initially promising start, I endured a traumatic experience which propelled an already-budding eating disorder from mild to severe – going from mild to severe bulimia, with a direct transition into anorexia (only resorted to in a last-ditch effort to “cure” the bulimia) which, in turn, took on a life of its own. As these things tend to do. Eventually, I checked into a clinic in order to temporarily hand over the controls to a third party, as I had clearly demonstrated I wasn’t capable of doing so anymore. A place which I had never previously given a second thought to, simply as a place of luxury where those in “high society” would go for a quick holiday, refreshed and ready to taint themselves with debauchery all over again, until their next check-in.

For me, it was either that or go somewhere hundreds of miles away, and that was something I couldn’t deal with. So it wasn’t so much the “luxury option” as the “only bearable option” at the time.

My entire memory of that time in my life is quite hazy, characterised by even more peculiar than usual thoughts and decisions and obsessions, all pursued in the futile attempt at taking back the reigns in my failed attempt at a new life. It even reached a point where – for reasons still not entirely clear to me now – I didn’t feel like I deserved to be “me” anymore, the “me” who made all the mistakes which led to me getting into that state in the first place.  It took an extremely long time to return to the things I once loved from then on.

I’m not sure I’m able to, at the moment, give a full auto-bigraphical account of the time but in short, after a testy bout of physical and mental re-feeding, I began to slowly piece my personality back together, having become a weird sort of drone obeying strict and incomprehensible self-made laws of living, and I began to fight back for a pitiful shred of self-control which I mistook for a sense of autonomy. However, before I could tackle this properly, I was ejected prematurely – good old health insurance – and ended up in a limbo consisting of “just holding on”, which would last into the foreseeable future.

Many things have changed since then, apart from making an almost accidental physical recovery. I moved back to my hometown, moved away again, had my “first time” (I think you know what I mean), came back to my hometown, restarted uni, got a dog called Charlie, my Gran passed away, I went on a few mini-breaks, I got inked for the first time, I got together with a long-term friend who would become my fiancé, discovered a fondness for cycling in the countryside, went away some more, started eating more…

Even a year ago today, I remember thinking about all the above which had happened in the few years since that rather strange day. I still had, and have, much of the same issues with my mind and my body and overall sense of self-assurance. Replacing one problem with another has been a lifelong tendency of mine, and that doesn’t look set to change.

The cause of all that has happened is probably more important to realise than the actual stuff that has taken place since then. But I owe it to myself and to those in my life to try and find a better way to make the most of life I have remaining.

It will be interesting to see what will happen in another year’s time.