Death and Taxes

It’s an old adage that the only certain things that will happen in life are dying and paying taxes.

This post by Chris Nicholas argues that we should take our fear of death and use it to make sure we get the most out of life:

​So many people spend their entire lives desperately scrambling to find their place within a world of uncertainty and change, afraid to acknowledge that one day they will die.

…When my life fell apart I realised how often I was sacrificing my own happiness to focus my attention on trivial and incidental shit. It became apparent that my pursuit of perfection and possessions was exacerbating my fear of death because I was subconsciously creating a life governed by anxiety. I had lost sight of what really mattered most. And as I looked around at my friends and family I realised that I wasn’t alone in my mistakes.

I saw couples who I knew were madly in love growing apart as they pushed themselves to buy a bigger car, or a better home, rather than allowing their love to blossom simply by acknowledging that they already had everything they could ever need within each other. I saw strangers sitting in silence at bus stops, their eyes fixated on mobile devices; desperate to feel connected to something or someone, but too afraid to share a moment of intimacy or awkwardness with the person sitting right beside them. And I saw that so many people were lost and afraid because they felt like they had no purpose. When all they needed to do to find themselves was to accept that one day they will die, and then work backwards to understand what mattered most to them in that space between birth and death.

Food for thought for anyone who, like me, is trying to find their place in the world. Read the whole post (it’s more uplifting than depressing) on the Renegade Press blog.

Stationery drama

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In this job, one of the ways I can be most useful is in providing academics with stationery. I increasingly find myself living for those moments when an academic bursts into the office, breathless and flustered, gasping:

“Please can you help me? I can’t find a post-it note.”

I can almost hear the triumphant chords of a violin chorus as I sweep post-it and pen from my desk and into their outstretched hand, with one smooth movement of my office chair.

“No problem.” I smile beneficently back at their delighted eyes.

So imagine my distress this week, when my colleague tells me not to give our supply of box files away to an academic in need. I freeze, clutching the flatpack cardboard and gazing sympathetically at the scholar standing, perplexed, in the office doorway.

The seconds seem endless as my colleague launches into a lecture on the correct process for ordering stationery. Still holding the cardboard prize, I’m caught in the crossfire as the academic begins to negotiate – he’ll fill out all his overdue paperwork in exchange for one box file. My manager and I exchange a glance across the room – we know how high the stakes are.

At last, defeated by the length of the awkward pause that ensues, my colleague relents. The academic can take the box file – this time. I shove it into his hands and scarper back to my desk. He backs out of the office wearing an expression reflective of the horrors he’s just experienced. My colleague reprises her lecture to the office in general as I make a mental note to order more box files.

Work diary – A week in January

Monday

Spotted: first student of the academic year – the black crested sports player. Campus otherwise deserted.

Tuesday

Had a meeting with my manager today, and we seem to be having a competition to see which of us can be the least excited by our work. At the moment she is winning, but I do need to work on my pretending-to-care face if I’m to have any hope of a decent reference, as by the end of the meeting I was virtually slumped in a heap on the desk. 

A memorable exchange ran thus:

Manager: Communications are just bull**** really. Anyway, this is one of my least favourite jobs, and it’s really time consuming, so I’m going to pass it on to you.

Me: … … Great. 

Wednesday

This job is excellent practice for if I ever need to win an international staring into space contest. 

Thursday: lunchtime

Went to the drama room in search of choir but there was no sign, and all was dark. I sang a bit and played ‘London’s Burning’ on the glockenspiel in the hope of drawing the musicians out of the woodwork, but no luck. I made friends with a ladybird crawling along the windowsill instead. 

Spotted on studentwatch this morning: the pink-crested jogger. 

Friday: lunchtime

Went over to the sandwich shop for my standard panini and was taken aback to find the place full of students. They had appeared seemingly from nowhere and in full force, as if someone had put a lure on pokéstop. I rejoiced to see the campus buzzing with life at last, but the novelty quickly wore off as I sat trying to eat my panini under frequent fire from mis-hit table tennis balls.  

“Stop searching for your passion” – TED talk by Terri Trespicio

This talk has an interesting take on the kind of situation I’m in at the moment – worried about what my future might hold and afraid of making the wrong choices. As Terri puts it, being afraid of “picking the wrong job and getting on the wrong train to the wrong future.”

She argues that the idea of finding and following a passion is basically a myth that is worrying a lot of us unnecessarily. Life doesn’t follow a plan, and if we try to make it do that, we can miss out on other opportunities we might enjoy – and become passionate about.

Terri says that “success can fuel passion more than passion fuels success,” i.e. finding the kind of work you’re interested in can often stem from something going well or solving a problem. I don’t think you should stick at something indefinitely trying to make yourself feel interested in it, and I find passion can be a helpful source of motivation, but on the whole I think I agree with her talk. 

I’m definitely feeling the paralysing fear she talks about – wanting to keep my options open, I’m avoiding heading in any definite direction. But I’m not enjoying having my options open. I’m so consumed by trying to imagine the future that often it’s difficult to notice the present. 

I’ll try to keep a closer eye on what’s in front of me, and look out for problems that need solving. 

Do you believe in following a passion? Leave a comment if you’d like to. 

Friday

Around 2pm

This day has been at least three weeks long. Been texting parents, desperate for some gossip. Mum lost Dad in Marks and Spencer’s. Then she found him and they’ve gone to get coffee. Feeling somewhat jealous – pensioners have such action-packed lives.

Work diary

As of a few months ago, I am working in ‘communications’ – although whether the work I am doing qualifies as communications is another matter – at what is supposedly a university. It looks sufficiently like Hogwarts, but there is a suspicious lack of any students on campus. At all.

In an attempt to maintain a positive attitude, I am (sort of) aiming to live by the 4 principles in the ‘FISH!’ workplace philosophy*:

  • Choose your attitude
  • Play
  • Be present
  • Make someone’s day

and to make a new friend or acquaintance every day.

*As described by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen in their book ‘FISH!’

 

Thursday

First day back at work after Christmas. The job is still relatively new, but I’m getting to know the people quite well. They’re all very friendly and kind, but there’s a pervasive laid-back attitude that’s sadly at odds with my natural inclination to throw my whole self into my work. I’m like a particularly excited goat that wandered into the tortoise enclosure and just can’t get with the vibe.

At lunchtime I went in search of a staff choir that I once saw a poster about somewhere. Found the room after prolonged exploration, at the end of what could be described as a secret passageway covered with poems and Shakespeare quotes. The room itself was a surprise enormous drama room, which is a bit odd considering this university doesn’t teach drama.

It may have been the room of requirement.

No sign of a choir, but I made friends with the man in the sandwich shop so consider the day a success.

Thoughts in my head today: Is it a crisis?

I am thinking of my self-doubt and anxieties about the future as a quarter-life crisis, which sounds lame* but does sum it up pretty well. How many other people feel like this? Am I being ridiculous to expect more from life than just having a job and getting by? I watched a video clip the other day that suggested my generation have been brought up to think they are special and are now being disillusioned by the reality that the world is actually not bothered if they live or die. I don’t think I’m more special or important than anyone else, but I still don’t get how they can be satisfied by just getting along in jobs that are OK-ish.

What about people I admire? Did Maxine Peake always know she was going to be an actor? Did Ellen DeGeneres have a time when she was eaten up by fear that her life would come to nothing? And thinking of these particular people, do you have to be famous or acknowledged to make an impact?  What does making a difference look like?

 

*It is lame – the migrant crisis is the sort of thing “crisis” denotes. I’m in no way comparing my feelings to the lives of refugees or anyone suffering with the effects of an actual crisis. But within the confines of my own existence, it’s perhaps at least worth the name “a bit of a stress actually”.

What am I doing with my life?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Since graduating two years ago, I’ve had several jobs, one of which I loved (in web/digital), and others that have been more mixed. They have all been short-term contracts and there has never been funding available to keep me on, although colleagues have been pleased with my work.

At the moment I’m struggling with the frustration of not finding (and keeping) a fulfilling job, and anxiety about making the ‘wrong’ decisions and not getting the most from my chance at life. This blog will share some of my questions and thoughts, plus an insight into the rollercoaster of excitement that is my current working life.

If anyone out there is feeling the same way or asking similar questions, I’d love to hear from you. Maybe you felt like this a few years ago and are now successfully and happily pursuing a career in law/floristry/dog grooming/world domination that brings you daily joy? Or maybe you’re muddling along and that’s OK actually – you’re happy. Please share if you’d like to.