Friday, 22 June 2012

Hey, come in and crash around inside my head...

...just please don't have me committed. (I once had a dream that a van-full of men in white coats came to take me away. I was only twelve or so at the time, and it genuinely frightened me.)

It struck me the other day that if I made a list of ALL the things I spend time worrying about - well, it would be less a list, more an Encyclopaedia Neurotica.

So naturally, I started to do just that. I'm hoping, I guess, that people will read this and either feel reassured, in an "oh, I'm not the only one who does that" sort of way, or they'll feel incredibly relieved that, well, they're not as addled as me.

I do have a very dear friend who has spent hours - honestly, hours - thinking about the perfect way to make a bechamel sauce. That's probably part of the reason we're friends - we understand each other. "You spent all night worrying about that problem that exists only in your head?! Oh my God, samesies!"

We also both used to self-diagnose on the internet if we didn't feel well, especially during our "watch ALL the seasons of House" phase. Don't ever do these two things together, take it from me.You will discover you have something terrible and incurable.

Then you will realise that what that is, is a lack of common sense.

But generally, it starts upon waking. What am I saying, it starts?! It doesn't stop. I'm pretty sure the first thought that fires in my head - and it's generally verbalised too if I'm on my own - tends to be, do I look like a spotty sixteen-year-old today? (My face hasn't got the memo that it's 22, not in its mid-teens. Curses. Clinique, I owe you a lot.) Then there's the in-shower, "am I too fat?" debate. Objectively, no. I know what I weigh and for my height it's probably bang-on. But we're forgetting those pesky XX chromosomes. Which mean, amongst other things, that in my head, I will always want to be thinner. It doesn't help that Mother Dearest is thinner than me. She has so many amazing clothes and I can't borrow any of them. Because they're too small. (Firstworldproblems, huh?)

Other ridiculous things I worry about...let's see. Oh, here's one. While on the train to work the other day, I spent most of the time between Horsham and East Croydon feeling guilty because I wasn't a "proper" commuter. (I wish I was kidding.) I felt bad that I was surrounded by people in suits who had proper jobs and real lives and families to provide for, and I was just on my way to sit in an office and essentially play an hours-long game of spot-the-difference.* I've since started taking my laptop with me to look more professional. I joke, it's so I can do dissertation work on the train. (Which is almost worse, somehow.)

*Or, as it's been this week, read-the-sociology textbook. Repeatedly.

And I haven't even got started on the relationship angst. I can hear friends thinking, "Oh God, what do you have to angst over? Like, seriously?" I take their point, I do. I know how lucky I am. I've made some shit decisions in my time, but I have brilliant taste in boyfriends. You can't fault it.

But I think I have a touch of "perfect girlfriend syndrome". And I highly doubt I'm the only one.

Man, there's a lot of soul-baring going on here. My next post will be lighthearted, I promise. Because, if nothing else, I need to check I can still do "lighthearted", as I've not exactly been Miss Full of The Joys of Spring. More like Miss Summer Drizzle.

So, Perfect Girlfriend Syndrome. It's quite simple, but boy, is it persistent. I don't know, I just want to be the perfect girlfriend. I don't do anything else to international level, so I might as well give this a shot. Trouble is, it backfires spectacularly because when "PGS" is coupled with my natural bottling tendencies, it means I withdraw into ice-queen mode and everyone is left feeling rather perplexed as to why I am a) silent, and b) suddenly even more haughty and uppity than usual. You know the script as well as I do:

Are you OK?
Are you sure?
'Cause it doesn't seem like you are. You know you can tell me if you're not.
No, I'm fine. Of course I'm not fine, why the flip do you not know this? Oh, 'cause I haven't told you because I don't want to drag you into my emo misery and you're not a mind-reader. WHY AREN'T YOU A MINDREADER? And so on, and so forth.

Don't give me that look, I've never claimed to be rational.

I just hate feeling like the whiny, needy one. I know probably everyone does, but I'm much more comfortable being the listen-girl, rather than the this-is-how-I-feel girl. Thing is, I'm aware that I do the ice-queen thing and I know it's not exactly the hallmark of a mature relationship -but I don't know how to not do it! - and so the whole cycle of worrying kicks off again.

In a way, I think it's at least partly a crutch, this chronic and acute worrying thing. The following sentence might not make sense, but I'll risk it. I worry that if I stop worrying, things really will all fall to pieces, purely because I've stopped worrying about everything. It's a running joke in my family that, "if Kirsten doesn't have something to worry about, she worries about that." Obviously life isn't like that - shit's gonna happen whether you were dreading it or not, and as someone far wiser than me once said, "the real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind". Which isn't especially reassuring, come to think of it.

I also worry that I haven't figured out number 17 on this list:

Everything else that churns round and round in my head is pretty much universal, I think - money (i.e. a severe lack thereof), getting a job, being able to tolerate that job long enough to be able to at least rent a tiny little flat and live with someone I'm not related to...

As is probably obvious, I could continue, and you won't be surprised to hear (read?) I nearly gave myself a stomach ulcer a couple of years ago. There are probably about four or five things that unfailingly make me relax in this world, the rest of life is a relentless cycle of "oh but what if-?"

Don't ever tell me that I don't need to worry so much. I can assure you, I do.

Music time? Music time.

I'm going to be honest, the song is nothing outstanding, I just like the video. There's a lot of corset-y action and people that look delightfully free of morals.

I'm seeing these guys in November, and I might cry when they play Poison and Wine, because I'm like that. But have this one:

Thursday, 14 June 2012

What does your internet history say about you?

I'm back in the hometown, after a rather tedious week of insomnia, dissertation-induced crying fits and one panic attack on a scale not seen since 2010*. (There was hyperventilating and everything. Say what you like about my lack of tolerance for stress, but when I panic, I commit.)

*I could probably spend the rest of this post ranting about how I am beyond certain that this summer is going to Absolutely. Freaking. Suck, but I think I'd alienate people with the levels of bitterness I seem to currently be capable of. I also can't disentangle the hormonal part of it from the over-tired part of it from the genuine "someone just give me a one-way-ticket to Peru, stat" part of it. Altogether now: "this Masters thing was your decision!"

So I thought, wait! I can do all this emo shit at home, with free food! I have no room of my own here anymore, so am sleeping on a sofa and living out of my little wheelie suitcase, which my mother likes to move around the house in a game of luggage hide-and-seek. Which is fun until I need clean underwear. But work decided they needed me, which means a 6 a.m. start, but then a nice long commute on the train, that, unlike every other passenger on the 7.20 to London Bridge, I quite enjoy. Mainly 'cause I'm an anti-social bastard who likes travelling purely because it means no-one can bother you or ask you to do things. And earning money again is still a novelty. Even if to earn said money, I must proofread guide dog obituaries (you can laugh, but I nearly cried), amongst other things.

So, now I've got your attention - and then lost it again, with my talk of commuting and  obituaries for guide dogs - let's delve into the murky depths of your internet histories.

Everyone does it. Even those who say they don't, even people who really don't seem the type - we all do it. And the internet just makes it so much easier.

Procrastinating, that is. (I know what you thought of first. But it's not that kind of blog. You could message me for some recommendations, though. I'm kidding. Kind of.)

I'm fairly sure that most readers of this blog are students, or are people whose student days are not long behind them, so I know that internet procrastination is not something any of you need help with. The fact that you're here at all suggests you're used to scouring the driftwood and tidewrack of the internet.

So what do your internet procrastination habits say about you?

Leaving aside Facebook ('cause that's a case of goes-without-saying), my procrastination material suggests I'm quite geeky (thank you, xkcd and PhD comics) but also pretty girly - ladies, if you haven't already, check out Lisa Eldridge. She's a make-up artist who posts tutorial videos on her website on a regular basis, and she seems really nice too. A couple of other sites that are mostly girl-orientated, but  refreshingly smart too, are Jezebel and Hello Giggles. Don't be put off by the latter's sickly-sweet name; Zooey Deschanel's a co-founder, and there's generally something interesting on there. I can also recommend Sabotage Times, and want to read everything this girl ever writes:

I seem to spend a lot of time on the BBC website - does this mean I'm also really boring? Probably. It's mainly for recipe-finding and weather-checking purposes. (I have an almost pathological hatred of rain. Yes, I've lived in Belfast and Cardiff; no, being repeatedly drenched in something does not improve one's tolerance for it.)

For someone who is simultaneously bored and depressed by the news, I spend a lot of time scouring the Guardian and Telegraph websites. Rarely am I reading the actual current affairs, I'm more interested in the columnists and what they have to say (I call this "career research" - these people are being paid to have opinions).

And, as an incredibly guilty pleasure, Mail Online. If my day hasn't contained enough rage, I know it can be remedied here. Oh, the Daily Mail - be more hypocritical and narrow-minded and casually racist, please. If I really want to see red, I have a read of the readers' comments. It's scary, sometimes: "people like this actually exist? Oh. Can we do something about them?"

While we're on shameful admissions - and girls, this one's for you - please Google "Tube Crush". It's a bit stalky and slightly creepy and ethically questionable, but hey, this is the internet. If you're anything like me (this is going to be awkward if you're not), you fall hopelessly in lust on average three times per use of public transport. Why do you think I don't mind this commuting lark? And for the record, I didn't find Tube Crush myself. Someone else recommended it to me. Honest.

There are many more sites I use for avoiding doing anything useful, but I really don't want to be here all night. As well as being a geeky, opinionated, full-of-rage creep of a girl, we'd only receive further confirmation that I'm a music-obsessed language nerd with a filthy mind.

Who, if she was a superhero, would probably be "The Procrastinator". I'd never get anything done, but I'd have an awesome cape.

Musically speaking, have some of this: 

And maybe a bit of this too:

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Pointless list post #7: nostalgia trips & other stories…

…I’m a list-maker. I get it from my mother, who’s a diary & itinerary pro. And I’ve had quite a bit of free time recently – and being the kind of person who needs a to-do list in order to stay sane* - I’ve been really struggling to find stuff to do. I mean, sure, I have a dissertation to plan and write - and really should be lit-reviewing my socks off as I type this - but I can’t be doing that all the time. (Admittedly, doing it any of the time would be a start.) 

* I’m serious; I genuinely start to worry and freak out even more than usual when I have nothing to do. It’s amazing I ever make it on holiday.

 Curiously, my love of list-making seems to have very little effect on my organisational ability. Essentially, I always know what I ought to be doing, but rarely will you find me actually doing it.

Apropos of nothing - while indulging in a spot of baking, or "literature review avoidance strategy #4" - it occurred to me yesterday that while I complain at length about the responsibilities that official, legal adulthood brings, there's a fair few things that I thoroughly enjoy now having the freedom to do.

In no particular order, here’s some that sprang to mind.
1) Being able to eat what I want. For someone who yearns for the days of teenage will-power, because it took her to the skinny side of healthy for a while, and who could happily exist on salad, toast and halloumi cheese, this isn't altogether a good thing. But the point stands.

Oh, and tomatoes-on-the-vine and peanut M & Ms too.

2) Being able to read/watch whatever I want. If I want to re-read my favourite books again and again, I can. If I want to go back and read only the best bits (and by ‘best’ I generally mean ‘raunchy’), I can.  Yeah. Take that, society.

I can watch what I want, too. Case in point, the last couple of weeks have seen me on a little nostalgia trip to The OC, season one. I even watched the Oliver episodes, and damn, that never gets any easier. I'm also fighting the temptation to order the first season of Smallville from Amazon and re-live that drama.

3) I can just go “out”. Like, I can lock the door and go, not having told anyone where I’m going or when I’ll be back. What a maverick.

4) I can unashamedly do the spoon-licking, bowl-scraping thing. These aren’t euphemisms. I don’t do a huge amount of baking, but when I do, it's now relaxing rather than stressful, and the bonus bit is scraping the remains of the cookie dough from the bowl and eating it. Ditto this with key lime pie filling. (That is heaven.) 

5) I can be anti-social if I want to. You know when you were a child and you were invited to a party hosted by someone in your class you didn’t really like, and your mother made you go anyway? Or when you were in the midst of the teenage house-party stage and you thought maybe you didn’t want to go and drink awful cider for the third Saturday night in a row, but "everyone's going to be there"? I don’t have to do that now, if I really don't want to. Of course, some of the best nights tend to be the ones for which you don’t have high expectations, so there’s always that, but if I genuinely have stuff to do, or don’t feel on particularly sparkling conversational form, I don’t have to go and try really freaking hard to look like I’m having a good time. I can spare us all the trouble.

I can also leave a night out when I fancy. Not having fun anymore? I can go home. This does come with an inconvenient side-order of “no, you absolutely shouldn’t walk home alone, you silly girl”, it’s true.  But you don’t need me to tell you that. 

6) I can stay up til ridiculous o’clock if I so choose. This post was drafted at 3a.m. this morning, as apparently sleep and I don't seem to be good bed-fellows right now. It was kind of depressing, watching the sky turn from city-light orange to pale bluey-grey, but I had a handful of blog post ideas and a good book to keep me company. If you're at all interested in, or perplexed by human behaviour, check out "The Decisive Moment" by Jonah Lehrer. It's a really interesting look at how the brain makes decisions - it was given to me partly as an in-joke, and I think the giver was hoping it was going to be more of a "how-to" guide. 

On the subject of decision-making, I'm aware that items 1-6 on this list could well be paraphrased as "I can make my own decisions" - but if I'd actually written that, I know full well that friends and loved ones would have guffawed heartily and then not read any more of the post.

7) I can do stuff alone. (I'm slightly worried that the upshot of this whole post will be this: I am an anti-social loner freak who, at the age of 22, has realised she doesn't like other human beings. I can assure you this is not the case. While tolerance isn't something I'm known for, there are at least a few people of whom I am very fond.)

For example, clothes shopping*, going for a coffee, maybe the cinema. I've not actually been to the cinema alone but I really don't think I'd find it weird. I have "quirky" (at best) taste in films so if there's something I really wanted to see that no one else fancied, I'd happily go alone. I've also not gone to a gig alone but again, I don't think it's a big deal. 

*I actually can't clothes-shop with other people. For starters, I'm the annoying girl who takes forever in the fitting room. And if I really need to get something to wear for a specific occasion, the last thing I want is other people's opinions. The only person I don't mind shopping with is my mother, which is odd, but probably explained by the fact that sometimes, she'll take pity on her poor broke student daughter and pay. I also trust her opinion on how things look; she doesn't hold back. I tried on a dress at some point last year and her response was: "It's nice, darling, but you really need better legs."

I laughed. Kind of.

Anyhoo, I better go. I've got stuff like eating salad and watching The OC and maybe starting that lit review to do. I'll leave you with these, 'cause I really like them: 


P.S. I had to link to a lyric video for the latter, as none of the others sounded particularly great. I actually heard this song floating out from an open window as I walked through Cathays yesterday, and had to do the "quick, remember these lyrics" thing so I could find the track when I got home. Kudos to whoever it was with the good taste in music, I owe you one. Yeah, so it sounds a little boyband-y, but so what? Ciao.