Saturday, 16 June 2012


People often tell me how refreshing it is to meet someone who ‘tells it like it is’.  Whilst I greet any compliment with the undignified gratitude of a puppy getting a biscuit, I don’t really understand this.  I don’t consider myself blunt, I consider myself honest.

Clearly sometimes it is best to say nothing, and on these occasions I like to think I can do the socially acceptable thing and stay schtum.  You’ll never know if I hate your outfit, or if I think your stew’s got too much salt in it; I’m pretty good at finding something genuine to compliment so rarely need to lie to fulfil a social expectation.

This commitment to honesty has many benefits.  I actually notice much more about people and places; instead of my brain seeing ‘striking trousers’ and automatically telling my mouth to say, “I love your trousers,” if my brain finds said trousers unpleasant it instead instructs my eyes to have a better look.  When I then compliment earrings / eyeshadow / bag, not only does the recipient feel like someone’s actually properly noticed them (as opposed to being dazzled by their new trousers) but I am a more aware and active participant in the world. 

Anyone who knows me knows that anything I say to them comes from the heart – I am terrible at small talk because it often feels like a big, fat lie.  If I ask you how you are, it’s because I actually care.  If I ask you what you do, it’s because I’m really curious.  If I’m not interested in the answer, for whatever reason, I just won’t ask the question.  I don’t consider this to be rude – arguably it is significantly better than unthinkingly parroting whatever pleasantry is expected in any given situation.  Of course a downside of this is that I often make the mistake of thinking that other people think like this too.  On occasion I have to remind myself that X’s friend doesn’t really care about the answer to whatever question he’s just asked, he’s just doing the social dance and in answering him I become rather boring.

I know I can be blunt; it has often been said that I say what everyone else is thinking.  Well, if everyone else is thinking it, why is no one else saying it?  Several reasons, actually.  When people first meet me, they often aren’t sure how to take me; I can seem bolshy and over-confident and this is off-putting for many (I like to pretend I don’t care about this, but sometimes I want to plead with people to stick with me long enough to realise there is more to me than comedic outspokenness).  It can be intimidating to be around someone who isn’t fully ‘playing the game’ socially – this can make others uncomfortable as the rules of engagement seem not to apply (for the record, it is never my intention to make other people feel uncomfortable and if I realise that it’s happening I will try to take steps to remedy the situation).   Ignorance is bliss.  Social norms exist so that people can enjoy themselves without encountering unexpected obstacles or having to confront difficult truths.  When someone even slightly doesn’t conform to these it is discomfiting; how do you deal with someone who speaks the unspeakable when secretly you agree with them?  You can’t disagree because your inbuilt sense of correctness won’t let you lie, but you can’t agree for fear of being tarred with the same brush as this brash interloper.  Tricky.

My suggestion – next time you’re in conversation with someone you don’t know very well, try to be interested.  That’s all there is to it.  If that’s impossible (and sometimes it seems that it is) then move on.  There is a finite number of people you can meet in your life; notice the earrings.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


I have recently come in to some freedom.  Whilst this is something I have been seeking for a while, I am now a little bewildered by the variety of ways I can use it.  In an attempt to find clarity and direction I am going to try to weigh up the pros and cons of some of my options.

Maintain Status Quo
·      I have a cute house which I rent, so I am not tied down and my landlord’s ace.
·      The Lincolnshire Bombers Roller Girls.
·      I have a secure job which I’m good at and I like.
·      I could take some time to learn some more stuff; quite fancy getting a physics degree, starting piano lessons again or learning vehicle maintenance.
·      The crushing sense of disappointment at not doing something fabulous (unless I get that physics degree).

Relocate Down South
·      Closer to sisters and their families.
·      Warmer.
·      Could get a job quite easily.
·      Would have to live in a shoebox.
·      Plus the cons of previous option.

Seek Teaching Job Abroad
·      Could probably get one fairly easily.
·      Get to live abroad for a couple of years with a decent income – security and a base for travel.
·      Get it out of my system.
·      Couldn’t do it until next September (that’s not necessarily a problem, though I’ll be the wrong side of 35 by then, which’d make me a bit of an oddity, I think).
·      Faffy.  (This is a spectacularly lame thing to include as a con, but I don’t like paperwork.)

Take a Sabbatical (assuming I could get work to agree – there’s no precedent, but I can be fairly persuasive)
·      Job to go back to.
·      Loads of options; travel, write, travel, study, write, travel.
·      Would have to go back to work for at least a year after a year off, meaning whatever I did would have to stop (probably) after a year.
·      Too many choices!  Do I stay here and write and study?  Do I travel?  Where to go?  What to do?  Voluntary work?  Proper vagabonding?  Eeeeek – this option doesn’t narrow down my decisions at all!
·      Would finish the experience with absolutely no savings, no house and no plan, which would be pretty scary.

OK, that process didn’t help at all.  Total freedom is not freeing.  I can’t help feeling I’m missing something – either pros or cons of any of these options, or indeed another option altogether.

I think a lifetime of having ‘things to consider’ (mortgages, careers, husbands etc.) has conditioned my brain not to think too big.  Retraining it to understand that anything is possible is harder than it sounds.  How do I undo this?  How do I make my mind realise that now is the time to live the dream?  Is that even possible when the dream has become so buried by the reality of my life that I can’t even clearly see what the dream is any more?

At a time when the world should be my oyster, I can’t help feeling it’s more like fugu.  Suggestions?