What confuses you?

It’s been 4 months. A third of a year. One-hundred-and-twenty-ish days since I last posted on this blog. When I closed the lid on 2012 I thought that I would also sign off of this blog forever. Not because I dislike this blog, or feel disconnected from it, but because it was a reminder to me of a year that I really wish I hadn’t lived. 

2012, as I have touched on previously, was a terrible year. I am still trying to work out why it was so terrible, but terrible it honestly was. So, 2013 was a new start and a new year and a chance to just go out and be all the things that I wanted to be. I had unburdened myself from a job that was bad for my soul, and I was looking forward to starting a new journey, and putting this blog to bed seemed a part of that.

Well… I couldn’t let it go. I have compulsively checked in on these pages, almost daily checking stats and everything. I feel beholden to it. Probably because it’s unfinished. I have not-so-secret problems with lack of closure, stemming from a teenage relationship that ended abruptly. I have found myself laying awake thinking about all those questions just hanging out there… the good ones, the ones I was saving for a long, rainy afternoon. The ones about my childhood – oh yes, those are going to be epic – and the ones about love. Just thinking of those questions, itching to start writing them down.

And so, here I am, confused about why I’m even still here. This is an endless task. A thankless task. I am laboring under the star of anonymity, having shared too much personal stuff to really show my blog to family and friends (although I know a few of you are out there…). But I’m here. Damnit. I’m going to finish this blog.

Hold me to it, slowly. I am going to start with tiny, coltish steps. Unfortunately writing for a living leaves little brain space for non-work related words. I need to break that habit. It’s a Sunday night and I’ve spent 11 hours of the last 2 days writing, and none of it was for me. That needs to change. Am I being foolish to think, again, that this blog might cure me of that? Who knows. It confuses me. I confuse me. This whole project confuses me.

Lets see where this goes…

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What is your number one goal for the next six months?

If I could list my goals for the next six months it would be the same as my goal was six months ago, or a year ago, or two years ago. Lose 10lbs (or make that 15 lbs). Write my novel. Go to church more. Go Home.

Now, I know that the last one isn’t going to happen, given that my new job won’t allow me true vacation time for six months of employment. So scratch that. As for losing 10 lbs, I’m working on that, but it’s a lot harder than I remember it. I worked out for the first time in months the other day and I have literally been hurting for the last three days, and not that “good sore”, either, I’m talking full body agony, laying awake at night finding it impossible to sleep type of pain. But I’m working on it. Maybe those 10lbs will be gone in six months time.

Writing my novel. Now, there’s a thought. I have so many stories in my head: stories that have been building up for decades, growing wings. I can’t write beginnings though, that’s my problem. Right now I have a sentence, it’s open on my desktop right now. It goes: “The death came before the despair: quiet and painless, a rattle of breath and something like a smile fading like the whistle of a kettle in an open, yawning night.”

After that I have nothing but a cursor and my imagination hyperventilating. I told my plot to my brother yesterday (I thought it was only decent, considering he is the motivation behind one of the key characters). I suppose now all I have to do is sit down a write it. I keep thinking about doing that “write a novel in november” thing, you know, what women do when men aren’t shaving for a month. But 1500 words a day seems a little far fetched, even for me. I suppose the only thing I have to lose is not finishing.

So maybe that’s my goal for the next six months. But if it’s not, then my goal is to drink less wine, drink more water, eat less chocolate (or just eat less in general).

How corporate America stole my abililty to speak freely

Aside

It’s been two whole months since my last post. I got sloppy. 2012 has not been my best year to date. I reached the point where answering questions about where my life was going, or what my legacy should be became painful to even think about. I didn’t want to articulate what was actually going round in my head, and trying to force out what I thought I should want to say because exhausting; I got the point where I could barely remember who I was, as though I was writing the account of someone I met once on a train and thought we might be friends if we lived closer. I still feel like that: like who I am is in another room and I am opening doors trying to find her.

When I first started this blog my aim was to rediscover how I express myself; to encourage deep thoughts; to realise interesting things about myself and feel reunited with my i. Perhaps I aimed too high. Perhaps I’m way too out of practice at these things. I work in the corporate world, people. Worse, I work in Healthcare. Even worse, I work in Healthcare in a foreign country. I am used to expressing myself according to very limited terms and conditions. I measure my opinions. I live in the midwest, the key is to blend in. And truthfully, I don’t disagree with blending in, it’s something that, as adults, most of us have to do to some degree. It’s compromising, or justifying, or being collaborative, or some other business lingo. It’s a mindset that you train yourself for, or that you get unwittingly trained in through the “needs must” school of life. It’s hard to admit that it’s nearly impossible to break out of this identity, it’s like a bad habit, I self-edit constantly.

As a marketing and operations professional, I focus on impressions and working as an art form. I advise people, reprimand people, mentor people on the right or wrong thing to say. Most of what I preach I don’t practice, and even less do I actually believe is true in the real world. But the business world isn’t the real world, and that’s the fundamental lesson behind my life. How many people would write emails to their friends like they write to their colleagues? Or how many people would dress to go to a ballgame with their friends as they dress on “casual” day at work?

I’ve learned a lot from my job, especially my current position, and wouldn’t want to change any of it. I’ve build a knowledge base on everything from database systems to healthcare operations; public speaking to individual mentoring; from how to dress at a conference to what is the “right” answer if someone offers you wine at a business event. But I haven’t learned anything about myself. I’m English, so people label me constantly. Mostly people run the fine line between considering me an awful prude or an outrageously liberal alcoholic (I’m neither, by the way). I’m a monarchist or a communist, a label-loving Londonite or a Welly-Wearing hoorah henry with a country pile. Different people take away a different version of me, and I am constantly shifting between each identity.

My failing was that I thought this would be easy. Things have always been easy for me, I’m one of those people that worked hard but not too hard in school. I got excellent grades because I understood how to check all the boxes, not because I actually wrote the most insightful answers. This is why I’m excellent at my job, because it’s all about educating people on what they should be saying or doing, and I’ve always been good at playing the game. Life is about displaying that you know what you’re talking about, rather than knowing what you’re talking about. The truth is, I’ve realised, that I know how to act like I know who I am, but really I have no clue.

So I’m starting from scratch here, and it’s probably going to get a little ugly.

When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

Quote

Ah. A question about talking. Perhaps one of my specialties. I talk a lot, as I have previously disclosed; normally my talking is a sign of nervousness, or my deep rooted shyness, but can also be a tool I use to fill the silence. I hate silence, and not just because of Doctor Who (whovians unite, everyone else scratch their heads).

But seriously, silence is something that I crave and hate simultaneously – it’s one of the complex layers of my fascinating personality. I grew up in a loud household in the middle of fields. Basically, a cell of silence with a nucleus of very loud noise. Silence in my house meant one of two things: a) there has been a major fight, or b) you’re the only person within earshot of yourself. The latter was the most common, and the most terrifying. I had recurring nightmares of being alone in the house and burglars breaking in. But that’s a story for another time, another time with wine.

The point of my digression is simply to punctuate the point that I am not a quiet person. As the result of being “a talker”, I am positively irritated by the stereotype that people that chatter are ignorant, or that ignorant people chatter. I have found neither of these things to be true. I actually think educated people find it impossible to not express their opinion, often taking many extra minutes of everyone’s time to ensure that their entire audience is sufficiently informed. This takes a lot of speaking. I find that, mid conversation, most people that don’t understand what is being discussed just sit there baffled. Verbal diarrhea is the curse of the educated, not the uneducated.

So, moving swiftly one from that, probably pointless, assertion, the question remains: what is wrong, or right, about talking?

Today’s question seems to indicate that saying, rather than doing, is the lesser action. This actually really pisses me off (excuse my language), as a lover of literature and history. Our world has been thought out, assembled, destroyed, and salvaged by the tongues of great public speakers. Cicero, Shakespeare, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr are men whose words have changed the fabric of the modern world.

Shakespeare, it has controversially been alleged, was actually illiterate, and dictated all of his plays to actors in his troupe. In fact, many of his plays were not written down for several years. The same is true for the ever-enigmatic Homer, of Odyssey and Iliad fame, whose epic poems were sung from generation to generation, and whose very existence has been questioned. Pause and imagine it, especially if you have ever read those marvellous texts out loud: these songs were powerful enough to last thousands of years, influence almost every famous work of literature since, and even maybe give life to a man that never existed.

When Adolf Hitler took to the stage, he would wait in silence for up to an hour before speaking on some occasions. The mere anticipation of his speeches created uncontrollable frenzy in the crowds, causing people to faint even before he uttered a word. The effects of his ability to influence through his words has left a scar on society that seventy years of actions has been unable to remedy.

When Winston Churchill told the world that we will fight them on the beaches, fight them in the streets, never surrender, he projected the words with such a sense of magnificence and gravitas that everyone who heard him agreed. By that point, the prime minister was at an age where being able to physically fight on behalf of his country was not an option, but by talking to his population he was able to salvage a massively diminished and terrified army. This is not to discredit his military service in the first world war, which was also a huge testament to his character, I just personally believe that the words he spoke in the 1940s killed more enemy soldiers than the bullets he fired in the 1920s.

Finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the history of the world with his incredibly famous speech. Even in the future, when I hope we have reached a point where his gender, race, or creed do not distinguish him, he will be remembered for his words. His speech, although directed to a specific group during a specific sociopolitical time, has transcended that moment and become universal. Before I even knew that much about the civil rights movement in north America, I knew Dr. King’s speech. The actions of the movement I learned about over a decade later: the protests, the riots, the tenacity and the very real fear. Even though these moments are important, and should be remembered, the movement had a voice, and it’s words went “I have a dream”.

By now I’m sure my point in clear. I want to be remembered for my words. I want to be a writer, I want for children to read my books aloud to their siblings or in their classrooms. Although I feel as though today’s question is meant to be a call to action for lazy protesters or people already remorseful that their New Years Eve diet is kaput, I think my answer is: Yes, I hope I will have said more than I have done. I want my words to matter.

In the words of the ever-poignant Belle and Sebastian:

Said the hero in the story:
“it is mightier than swords
I could kill you, sure,
but I could only make you cry with these words”

What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

Sometimes it’s really hard to actually sit down and reflect upon all the things that I’ve done and achieved in my life. We live in a world where we always want more, always feel as though we should be more, or have more, or do more. It’s a race against ourselves, and normally a pursuit of pointless or meaningless things.

I am (nearly) 27 years old, and in my life I have been a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, an employee, a girlfriend, a fiancée, an immigrant, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a hound-momma, and a home owner.

In my life I have travelled the world, got a college degree, written a thesis, been published in a book, stayed close with my family and friends, bought my own home, married a fantastic man, planned a wedding, survived the immigration process, met several famous people, raised a bratty dog, got and kept a good job in a poor economy, learned how to style my impossibly curly hair, and read thousands of books.

In my life I have had the opportunity to do many wonderful things, meet many wonderful people, I have had the chance to own my own property, work for a living; I have had encouraging friends, a loving family, and good employers. I have 1400 square feet of Missouri to fill with things I bought new, and to allow my dog to run around in.

I have done, been, and had plenty of things in my life – it’s really hard for me to consider wanting more.

What do you wish you spent more time doing five years ago?

This is me five years ago, almost to the day. I was twenty one years old, finishing up my degree, and about to get engaged to the man in the doctor who scarf. At this point he had never even seen Doctor Who, but was too polite to ask what it was every time I referenced it.

Me, five years ago. I was one of those people with an entirely complete view of where my life was going. I lived with great friends in a house that I loved, despite it’s shabbiness, in a town that I adored. I swam almost every day, and walked several miles onto campus and back. I was fit, healthy, and happy. It was a time in my life when I didn’t own a scale, a hair dryer, or any kind of concealer. I was totally in love with my future husband, never doubting that we were destined to be together forever, not allowing myself to question the alternative to a transatlantic love affair. I studied semi-furiously, worked a part time job, and made time to travel back to see my family.

I think my time five years ago was well spent, actually. I long to wake up in those lilac afternoons, in my small bedroom overlooking the backs of houses, a cobbled alley way, and laundry-strewn gardens. Student life. I spent enough time sleeping then (I have always been a sleep-whore), and didn’t feel guilty about climbing back into bed in the afternoon for a nap or to read. I think it was a time in my life that I didn’t really feel guilty about anything, or that I owed anyone an explanation about anything.

I look at this photo now and realised that this was the height of my confidence, this was the point in my life that I truely could have been anyone, done anything, gone anywhere. I think I recognize it now I am at a point of my life where my self esteem has taken a weathering, reality has set in.

If I had to look at myself five years ago (which I guess I better), I would say the only thing that I would wish I would have spent more time doing is enjoying the moment, enjoying being myself back then. Because I was beautiful, talented, and buoyed up by the world.

The day that started the questions.

The first mundane fact about me (and there will be hundreds, if not thousands, to follow) is that I work in an office, and sit in a cubicle. I used to have an office back when I first started 2 and a half years ago… four walls of my very own, with a copy of Van Gough’s ‘Starry Night’ on the wall, which everyone thought was depressing but I rather liked. Having an office was an advantage of being hired after a recession… lots of empty offices around. True story.

But, fortunately, my company has grown rapidly since then, and I have had to give up my (much-loved) office in favour of a cubicle that has a lot less space, but a lot more visitors. I’d much rather have a cubicle in a period of growth than an office in a recession, and I’d much rather have a tiny cubicle filled with visitors than a large office (with free painting) with no-one in it by me. Truthfully, I did rather rattle around in there on my lonesome.

Another (or two) mundane facts about me is that I like my job, and I like the people I work with. They keep me occupied. (Another mundane fact about me: I grew up in England next to a “pill-box” bomb shelter. I can’t use the word ‘occupied’ without thinking about the second world war, even if I don’t mean it in THAT way).

Anyway, as my A-Level Classics teacher, Mr Chappell, would say: “I digress”. It was on a rather usual day, when I was sitting in my cube with my work friends when someone sent me a link. I think the exact article was something along the lines of “50 things you need to stop doing”. The website was www.marcandangel.com .

I fell in love with this website on the spot. I love reading current things by current people, and this website spoke to me. I loved the truthfulness behind the articles, and found myself agreeing with almost every article I read. The points were simple, well constructed, and hard to ignore. After a good forty minutes of browsing (in between working, of course), I came across the following article: “365 Questions to ask yourself this year“. I read all 365 questions, even though I was at work, answering each one in my head. Some were easy, some were hard, some were cheesy, and some were genuinely insightful.

Suddenly a little voice (I think it might even have been “Me”) spoke up inside my head. I should do this, I should answer these questions, one a day for a year… and I was Inspired. Capital “I”. It’s been so many years since I truly felt inspired and motivated to write than I hardly recognized what was happening.

Inspiration was always easy for me in college, I only needed to open a blank document on my computer and a short story would come tripping off my keyboard, often a thinly disguised reflection of my own life. I could, and often did, write several poems a day, the themes were very collegiate: Love, Sex, Heartbreak, Despair. Moving into the real world came with the cost of a cold, hard truth. Writing a poem about paying a mortgage, or watching my friends lose their jobs was neither easy, productive, or touching. I found the only words trapped in my keyboards were short, unintentionally terse email home: Everything fine, sorry for not writing, hope to write more soon. My mother would reminisce: “you used to write such lovely, long letters, everyone used to look forward to them”. The elephant in the room was that I no longer wrote, and people no longer expected me to. Me, the family writer, suddenly without definition. I was the family wordsmith, I had become somebody else’s Employee, and somebody else’s Wife.

So this glimmer of inspiration, this tiny re-entrance into my mind, is something huge and wonderful in the scheme of my grand Midwestern adventure. I hope to discover who I’ve become, if I’ve really changed in the five years since I put down the pen. My intention is not to impress my opinion upon anyone, and I sincerely hope nothing I write is offensive, it is not intended to be. I will answer my first question on January 1st, working from the list in the original article. If I omit, edit or amend any questions, this is only to better suit the purposes of the blog. I will try to keep aligned as closely to the questions I first read on that strange, nondescript December day.