Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Maudlin but right on time..

OK, so my annual SAD is hitting again (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) and I've been feeling very introspective recently.

I very much admire people that have a passion, for anything. I admire people that decide they're going to be a gardener or an F1 driver or a glass blower or a journalist and then go ahead and do it. OK, the analogy probably works better for an artist than an accountant, but you get the idea.

I admire that ability to focus on one thing, to specialise and to work at it and practice and get better and not deviate from their passion. I am the opposite really - I want to learn everything, know everything and do everything. Some stuff I'm good at already, other stuff, not so much. But I never feel like I have a passion for something in that way - in some respect that level of focus scares me, especially the thought of that singular focus applied to me. I think it would make for an unhappy ismarah, but at the same time I speculate and fantasise about what I could do, how would it go if all my time, effort and energy was spent on something like that, a specific field of interest.

But inherent in that thought is that somehow that way of being is 'better' than the way that I am, that I am in fact a dilettante, dabbling in the things I dabble in, rather than a serious player in a chosen field. It also suggests that I could be better/faster/cleverer (oh, the arrogance!) if I only I specialised...

The other thought in my head today is the slow realisation that the vague idea / fantasy that maybe at some point in the future I / we will live in the mother country, maybe raise the kids there or retire or something similar. But every time I break it down into logic rather than a knee-jerk reaction, I realise that I don't want to move there, I don't want to live there and I'm not willing to compromise that for the sake of hypothetical kids.

So, in the most maudlin way possible, I will never move home again.

I am now of course, approaching the level of maudlin where I feel the need to kick my own arse into shape and snap out of it.

But I also need to remember to stick to plan A and not start merging in aspects of plan B. Plans are good, they're made for a reason and just because time is passing too slowly for my liking doesn't mean plan A can be jettisoned in whole or in part.

Now pass the chocolate.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Halfway through

So. Having completed the diploma (I even got a certificate) and the first year of the BA, I am now just over halfway through with my degree, which feels very very strange. I'd got so used to thinking of myself as this non-finisher dilettante that it's been quite a surprise how well I've taken to my chosen field.

I'm not top of the class but I've improved my own grades from project to project. That's been a bit of an adjustment actually, the grey, subjective area of grading in arts / design. Heretofore I've always done straight academia, where the answer is either right or wrong, black or white - and therefore easily quantifiable and comparable. But with this, knowing why someone has done better or worse than you is irrelevant. All you can do is compete with yourself.

This is something that I've also been doing since blobectomy. I've been gymming it and dieting and generally just trying to get healthy, with some success. This has also introduced me to the concept of Personal Bests and that's very much where my head is at with regards to both the gym and school.

It's very gratifying when people notice my improved fitness / leanness and it makes me really happy when people say something. You'd think that 19.5kgs gone would be bloody obvious, wouldn't you, but not everyone agrees. In any case, I'm more than halfway through with diet too, hence this post. Halfway done with lots of stuff.

This post brought to you by RunKeeper and ShapeUp Club - the two apps I use the most for diet things..

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What Color House Should You Live In?

You Should Live in a Green House

You are a peaceful person who always seeks out quiet and solitude.

You love nothing better than a long walk, and you probably prefer to live near nature.

You are a good listener, but you always need down time to recharge after being around others.

You usually fit in anywhere. You blend well, and you're happy to sit back and observe.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Seeing with a foreign eye

It's a very peculiar thing, to be a foreigner living somewhere. You obtain a different perspective on your native land, but also you bring with you a different perspective on the adopted one.

For instance:

It's now been snowing non-stop for close to 24hrs here in the UK. Yet Brits always seem just as shocked and ill-prepared for it when it happens, EVERY YEAR. I'm not suggesting that Brits should all have studded tyres and chains at the ready, but possibly another set of coarser tyres would be helpful, nay, obvious?

Why not consult with your neighbours in Europe that run train systems yet experience annual heavy snow-fall and seem to manage OK? Ask them what they do and then put plans into place to COPE with the white stuff?

Instead, there's a lot of wringing of hands and shrugging of shoulders, and very little action. The whole country comes to a standstill because there's snow. This may work if it's one day, every 5-10 years or so. Like I imagine Greece has (my apologies, my Greek correspondent is in fact, in Greece and unavailable for comment or verification) - not the UK.

I think at some point the UK is going to face the facts. It is a fairly northern island, in the Atlantic, whose only meteorological saving grace is the Gulf Stream. It is not the Med. Snow is an annual, regular thing, lasting for weeks. Maybe more weeks.

And controversial or not, the Global Warming thing is kind of already happening. It's not just a theory of what might happen in the future - it's happening NOW. Look outside.

I know it seems counterintuitive that lots of snow = global warming, but this is in fact the case. Global warming = messing up of weather systems and patterns, which is why Newfoundland is balmy for this time of year and the UK is an igloo.

Item two

Two party politics, first past the post. Yeah. This may have worked in Victorian times where the electorate was limited to white adult males, which then split into two, rich and poor, but it doesn't work in a multicultural society. Yet mention proportional representation or dog forbid, a coalition government and all of a sudden people start sounding like Victorian stereotypes, spouting 'it's just not British' or some such sentiment.

The current Labour government seems to believe it may actually win the next election. The Tory opposition seems to think they might have a clean majority. Other parties are seen as irrelevant. I think they might all be in for a surprise by June at the latest.

Learn to play nicely with other parties and you just might find yourself in government. And the population needs to realise that a coalition government does not mean the government is weak, or that the country is weak. Again, look at your neighbours in Europe and ask them how they manage.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Coming out of the closet, sort of

I spent my childhood being fairly accomplished academically. Top of the class in most things, but not all. I got tired of school and tests and pressure, and for all elective classes, picked things like art and sports - where there was no homework and no tests. I was average in both of those and content with that.
I'd always dreamt of joining the photography club, but never had the nerve to do it for several reasons. One, I didn't want to do more things associated with school and the other kids there that bullied me almost to death, and two, I felt hampered by the academic side of things. I was never going to be 'the best' at art or sports and also people seemed to bully me further when I stepped out of my proscribed area of academics. When a girl I was mostly friendly with that had been in a choir with me in a different school and I started singing / humming together after class one day, we got signed up to the talent competition we had no interest in joining. We weren't allowed to remove our names and were told to prepare an act and show up. I don't know why, but we did, and sang. It wasn't bad, we didn't win but we also didn't get jeered off stage. But people seemed angry with me, like I wasn't meeting their expectations (these being the people that didn't know me because they were busy bullying me) by doing something 'creative'.
My family has also been odd about this sort of thing - my mum famously said when I'd passed the audition to move from the 'anybody can join' little kiddie choir to the more grown up performing choir when I was 10 'really?! YOU made it??!' (tone of voice was somewhat unbelieving), punctuated with a laugh / snigger.

And yet, here I am. I'm married to a creative person, I'm studying design at an Arts university and feel more at home there than I ever did anywhere else. I take photographs. I make jewellery. I make my own models for school. I make clothes. I do all sorts of creative housey things, like baking, cooking, gardening and DIY, from making beds to painting ceilings. By most people's reckoning that would also make me creative.

And it feels a little odd, hard even, to say to people, 'I am interested in art. I am interested in design. I like to make things'. It feels like a dirty little secret, like I'm coming out of the closet as something other than what people think I am. So with apologies to my gay and lesbian friends, I'm coming out. I am creative.

But I hardly ever sing anymore.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Oh! My! How Ironic!

You Are Apples

You have simple tastes in food, and you appreciate a basic, clean flavor. You don't think eating or cooking should be complicated.

In fact, you're really not one for cooking much at all. Your best meals come together quickly and don't require many ingredients.

If anything, you're the type of person who's more likely to pull out the oven mitts and bake every so often.

Chocolate chip cookies are one of your favorite things to smell baking, and it goes without saying that you love apple pie.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

End of a line (sort of)

Right. Where to start? Chronologically?

Went to doctor and he changed meds again, which led me to believe I'd be safe going for a run or two, in order to try and shift the weight that he claimed was to blame for my high blood pressure. That turned out to be a huge mistake or a massive blessing* in disguise as the changed meds made me really really really ill, when combined with running a mile a day.

There's a service in the UK called NHS Direct which allows UK residents to phone an out of hours medical service without having to phone emergency services for advice. After feeling odd and out of sorts all day, I went to bed early and immediately felt worse. So bad in fact that I called the hotline. They went through my symptoms and insisted on putting me through to an out of hours doctor at my local clinic as they felt I needed to be seen immediately. Out of hours person at the clinic said there wasn't much they could do for me in terms of running diagnostic tests and that I should go to the nearest hospital. After verifying that I knew which hospital to go to and was capable of getting there myself (as otherwise they would send an ambulance for me) they told me the hospital would be advised I was coming in, wished me well and hung up.

It was at this point that OH realised he'd had a beer with dinner and wasn't entirely fit to drive. So I drove myself. We were seen almost immediately and filtered off to the 'Major Incidents' side of things which was interesting. I managed to have a funny episode in front of the doctor, passing out while she calmly measured my blood pressure, which 'helped'.

As soon as they started running blood tests and getting those results back they were pretty sure that I didn't have what they thought I had, but they would still treat me as such, just in case. So I got lots of shots and pills and tests and monitors in case I really was having a heart attack. Heparin really really hurts when administered subcutaneously into the abdomen.

The more blood tests came back the more they were sure I wasn't having a heart attack, so they also said that I'd in all likelihood be staying in the hospital for a bit, until A) I was stabilised and B) hopefully diagnosed.

So I was in hospital for about 5 days. Local hospital was actually pretty good, and OH was able to come and visit once or twice a day, which was good. Food was OK, place was clean enough, pity about the lack of communication.

Back to school, tottering around feeling really bleurgh and sorry for myself. Missed loads of classes. Didn't go on the school trip to Berlin and nothing much was done for those of us that didn't go. Managed to alienate more teachers (what? like it's hard?) and was explicitly told not to sit with a certain other student. Bearing in mind I'm 30something and he's 40something, being told we were disruptive influences was highly amusing and we really didn't take that seriously at all. Although we did dial it down a little.

February was also assessment month. I was offered a 3 week extension to hand everything in due to my health but I chose to try and get everything done (except for one paper) on time as otherwise I was worried things would just snowball and I'd be working on Stage 2 stuff in the middle of Stage 3 and then I'd really be screwed.

So most of February was spent working and catching up and going back to the hospital every now and then for more tests.

Come March I was feeling better physically. I'd caught up with everything and was ready to crack on with an ambitious project for the final stage and had sort of decided where to go next. I started seeing a counsellor at school to help me try and deal with my all to easy loathing of teachers in general and my current one in particular and just generally to be more respectful. She turned out to be Norwegian and really understood me and we got on like a house on fire.

Then Friday 13th, several friends celebrated their birthday, I was due to hand all my extra credit stuff in and had a tutorial to get cracking on Stage 3. That day bombed, to say the least. I didn't know whether to bother quitting school or whether I could just stay in bed and the whole thing would sort itself out.

Then Saturday the 14th. I called my gran, at her new care home. She was poorly and tired and I didn't want to keep her away from her nap for too long so I talked to her for a few minutes and then told her to go take her nap and said my goodbyes. And then she died a few hours later.

The following week was surreal. I had an MRI on the Monday and some dear friends came to stay that afternoon. Thanks to them we kept busy and although I wasn't jumping for joy, we muddled through. The services for my gran had been planned pretty quickly and we were to fly to Iceland on the Wednesday night.

Thursday she was laid to rest and the casket was closed.

Friday I and 7 of my cousins carried the casket out of the church and said our goodbyes. The hardest thing I've ever done.

I was again offered an extension on work as I'd missed more school - but again I chose not to accept it. I muddled through, coming up with something for the final show that had dramatically changed in terms of the approach. Easter came and went and all of a sudden school was finished. I had an interview for the degree program I wanted to get into which went really well and I was offered an unconditional place on it in the interview itself. Of course when the letter arrived my university had downgraded that to a conditional offer, dependent on my completion of the diploma, due to some stupid bureaucracy.
With my new-found Zen ways, I didn't kick up a fuss, just put it behind me and carried on working.

We had our show. Nobody came that I had invited, many good excuses.

*I got my confirmed diagnosis and went to see a specialist in London. This is why the prescribed meds in January were a blessing as otherwise it might have been years before I was actually diagnosed.

It finally dawned on me that I would get an actual diploma for this year and would thus finally have progressed beyond the Studentsprof, like I'd always wanted.

I accepted my conditional place at university for next year. I will be studying Product Design at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham Campus, for the next 3 years. At least.

Friday this week I should get my results, ending one of the hardest school years of my life, which if you know me, is actually saying something. Quite a lot in fact.

Well. This summer I will be having a holiday. Having my parents visit. Having surgery. Arranged in order of most to least projected quantity of fun.