Friday, September 21, 2012

Why Change?

I am just going to put it out there; I dislike that life is a linear timeline. The chain of events that it is cause and effect bother the hell out of me. Everything I do in my life impacts how my life will be for the rest of my life. Every moment I want to take back and redo... either I can't or in doing so I waste a little bit more of my preciously short life span. By extension I really struggle with change. Every change represents the end of something, something I will never be able to go back to.

I am currently sitting inside the circus cannon, that is to say I'm merely weeks from the end of my university degree. Waiting patiently for somebody to finish mixing the gun powder which will be used to propel me into the real world. Will it work? There is a lot of trust in the functions of the universe (the gun powder mixers) that it will all work out for the best.That I won't overshoot the mat nor will the cannon explode around me without ever ejecting me. (Maybe I shouldn't think in detail about potential disasters for human cannonballs.)

In simple terms, change unsettles me. I become a crying wreck at the drop of a hat. My sleep patterns become more dishevelled than they already are. My whole confident personality begins to dissolve around me. I'll be honest in saying that at 21 there haven't been a hell of a lot of major change moments in my life. High school graduation, the completion of my gap year of work, the completion of my undergrad training course, and the now the completion of my undergraduate degree (I don't count the changes prior to my being  independent in this predicament.)

Here, at university, I have a good group of friends, all the interest groups I could ever want, a great Christian community, more spare time than I can justify. Graduation means becoming separated from all of my classmates who are being spread literally from Perth to Sydney across Australia. Graduation means moving away from the communal living blocks I've become accustomed to. Leaving behind every friend I have in the lower years.

Yes, I make it sound much more depressing than exciting. Leaving the confines of university is supposed to be exciting isn't it? I forget sometimes, finishing uni means no more endless hours of studying things for some singular 2% assignment. No more listening to the lecturer explain that some completely obscure proof of a simple engineering principle is entirely essential to my existence. No more warped schedules where the line between work and play is so blurred I have to doubt it exists at all. Except there's no guarantees there at all, engineers are notorious workaholics. I'll be worked to the bone till the day I die.

The biggest change is definitely in the issue of friends. I've been spoilt this year, my best friend came to the same university as of this year. Its the first time we've lived in the same state since high school graduation 4 years before. Next year I'll move away again. Away from her, away from all of my classmates, away from friendships that took me literally years to set up. I was very alone for my first two years of university. I live in fear that I'm within months of going back to that hopeless, often socially incompetent girl. People would say that's impossible, but I can already feel the landslide inside myself. Here's to optimism I guess...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Honesty Honestly

This was going to be a post simply about honesty. By the necessity of my own mind it morphed into something more about learning to let yourself be loved for people who struggle with self-hate. It is still about honesty, about why being honest is important, but it goes past that to why learning to be honesty, truly yourself is important for people who struggle some days to even like themselves.

Perhaps it is an off shoot from many years of being hyper critical towards myself but I need people to like me. Now there's a statement that's on the surface horrifically needy and desperate. However this isn't a post looking at the negatives of self abasing thinking. I'm going to focus in on the positives. The habits I've developed from years of hating myself in the quiet times that are entirely beneficial for who I am.

This of course has to start at the point of being needy. When you struggle to like yourself, every person around you who shows open dislike towards you, their singular comments or quick looks are amplified 100 times over. Hell, to be perfectly honest, you are probably misinterpreting some of those statements or reading to much into completely unemotional glances. It is important to feel as though people around you like you.

More importantly. You really need them to like you for you. No amount of play acting, or cover stories, or disconnected smiles makes you feel better about it. If you aren't being yourself when somebody expresses to you that they like you it becomes meaningless. It becomes essential to feel as though you are being yourself. If you aren't being genuine in your head there is no why the person you are with could possibly be being genuine. (If this is something you struggle with personally I know that you will still struggle to accept they are being genuine even when you are - we'll work on it.)

Finding yourself, specifically trying to cultivate the person you feel like you are without the self-hate, is hard. Certainly I've been working on it a while and at times I still fall through the cracks into the dungeon of my own making. However, from very early on, you are rewarded with people who seem to like you - now it's for being you. Something about the honesty replaces one of the layers between you and being able to accept praise. Now, though you might not understand it, people do seem to appreciate the 'real you'.

A word to the wise. Never try to quantify why it is that those people like you. How or why they've chosen to be your friend. This is a dangerous thought pattern and generally will lead you back to self-hate through your inability to explain it or feel worthy of it. However if you are thinking these things I find it useful to express these doubts to your friends (not all of them just one or two of those closest ones). They won't be able to answer the question very well. They'll call you a nice person, a good friend, funny, smart and a whole lot of other adjectives you probably aren't able to believe. However then, either to them or to yourself, try to explain why you like that person. You'll find you use most of the same words.

It's a very old saying 'honesty is the best policy' and I'm happy to agree with it. If you are being honestly yourself you'll still have the people who like you and the people who don't like you. The big difference is you won't feel as though the people who do like you, like a lie and don't really like you. Let that light shine through. 

What does being honestly honest look like for me? The version of myself unrestrained by the negative emotions is a bubbly, friendly sort of a person. That that person has somehow managed 21 years of perfectionism, varying levels of social incompetence and a few irrational fears like using the telephone amazes me. However she is there, and much of the time I am able to, in good moods, be her among my friends. Still in training of course, a lot of the time I can't or don't live her out, but it's a work in progress.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Three Things I’m Good At

I was going to blog about something or another that I was frustrated with myself for being bad at. I think along those lines a lot. It’s one aspect of my perfectionist ways (which were a lot more detrimental to my general operation in the past than they are now) I can’t shake. I am really good at being critical, and what better to be critical about than myself?

For the same reason I am not very good at highlighting my strengths. So I’ve decided to do a post today about three things I am willing to think I am good at rather than lay into myself (there is enough of that for later when I get back into my school work). Everybody is good at something or another right?

1. Putting on my make-up.
I’m not going to go out there and say I’m brilliant at point on make-up. I lack the practiced knowledge to be something like a make-up professional. Certainly the only person other than myself I’d do make-up on would be my best friend (who seems willing to go out in whatever I put on her face).
However in the non-professional scheme of things I think I do make-up pretty well. Whatever product I will know where on the face it belongs (seems basic but up until 18 months ago this likely wasn’t the case). I can apply all the various types of eye-liner in nice even lines. If I use highlighters and bronzers I don’t end up looking like a shiny bronzed statue.
2. Bush dancing
I have to put a caveat on this – I can’t do a real waltz to save myself. However I am really good at bush dancing (not to be confused with the Nut Bush). In the dances where you switch partners I am frequently complimented for my dancing abilities.

If you don’t know what a bush dance is. Well first off (and I speak only to fellow Aussies here) if you don’t know what this is, shame on you, go and try it. Secondly try almighty Wikipedia, it has a short article which I’ve looked at – nice and to the point. For some more in depth, actual steps, have a look at the Australian Heritage Dances page.

However bush dancing is an Australian dance style (if you couldn’t guess by ‘bush’ which I believe Australians have sole possession of that word). It is essentially directed dances – whereby the caller with the band provides the directions to the couples (it is mostly couples dancing). It is at its best with a large group of denim jean attired people willing to laugh at themselves and have a good time.

If you can’t tell from that last line, it is a very light hearted affair. No skill required. So how am I good at it? I love a bush dance (not being the most common of activities I’ve only been to 3 or 4). The trick is all in the enthusiasm, and that is something I can do.

Dances like this (though I usually do the Waves of Bondi and the beginning before the waves is a little different with some bowing etc).

3. Reading Upside-Down
I’ll be honest I got to the end of bush dancing, and couldn’t honestly think of a final thing. There’s putting hospital corners in sheets? I’ve already used that one on this blog though. So the last one I present is reading upside down.

One summer in high school I decided that reading 180 page Mills and Boons simply didn’t take enough time. Rather than reading something more challenging (and less interesting) I came up for a solution by turning the book over. Now a book I was able to read in about 2 – 2.5 hours would take me 7. It was a successful concept.

The downside is that practicing anything for too long makes you good at it. By the end of the summer it was only fractionally slower for me to read a book the wrong way up. I would no longer claim quite such a level of super power. However I can still read most things upside down without any conscious effort – and for short pieces of typed writing occasionally without noticing at all.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

5 day 12 hour Challenge

The best challenges are those born of necessity. In order to survive my degree a serious ramp up is required. Engineering thesis are the pits and as such I tend to avoid mine. Now I have a month left and I need to have some serious work completed.
Add to that a listening test in a foreign language and a lab report for a lab I did completely wrong in the lab period and I have a very busy week ahead.
The result? I am giving myself a 12 hours of work a day for the next 5 days challenge. If I can do that I can have Saturday fully off. If I can't do it... Well I will be playing catch up... Like I am already doing.
Here's a question. How do I trick myself into taking my own rules seriously? I can't diet. I can't force myself to work or force myself to sleep or dven force myself to stay on topic and read a book. I am working on it. I can now force myself to go to exercise alone (I've always relied on the guilt of a gym date with a friend etc) but in everything it is still a distinct work in progress.
Now I feel it is bedtime. No sleeping in past 7am this week either so we are going (to at least try) early to sleep, early to rise. Wish me luck. I see no blogging in my immediate future.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Learn Something... World War II

I love the internet. I've told you a view times already that I am prone to spending time (too much time) wandering the unmarked roadways of the internet. (Some people might say the whole hyperlink thing makes the roadways very clearly marked however I think of that more as orienteering flags in a forest.) However when I do this I try to find at least one thing that leaves me feeling like I've achieved something or learned something.

Today I found a cool... what I personally call... 'informercial' website. Perhaps not a strictly correct term - there are many other 'look at the my cool list of cool gadget websites that are perhaps more appropriately called informercial websites. However for my purposes an 'informercial' website is some collection of facts (whether hard hitting or completely fluffy) which are assembled into an informative, interactive single page website. These websites fascinate me for many reasons, I wish I could graphic art the way the people who do these do.

Anyway. The one I found today nobody could deny as being pretty hard hitting. It decides to do the multimedia run-down of WWII, Across 30 slides (this one is very much a slide show) the mad, bad and awful is shown in photos, statistics, videos and radio recordings. It is essentially about continuing the awareness of what happened in the war. I've personally seen/heard bits of it before at uni classes and at the Churchill War Rooms in London (if you should be so lucky its definitely worth a look) however it was still a nice overview.

Before some war enthusiasts get all hot and bothered I am not going to call it anything like the be all and end all. However if you want a nice, light-weight (as in not reading - there is nothing light-weight about the actual information of the second world war) reminder that WWII was a real event. (If you are a holocaust conspiracy theorist, two things: a) please comment below I'm interested to talk to somebody that really thinks that way and b) go visit a holocaust museum - preferably ALL the holocaust museums - and learn some real facts.)

So what are the big things I take away from spending an hour refreshing some WWII information in my mind? Operation Pied Piper always fascinates me (its only a picture in the slides) - where they evacuate the children from London - perhaps because it was always one of the earliest war facts I learned - after all most kids read Narnia long before war history is a big priority in their lives. Its one of those things where you really have to stop and think - things had become so bad that this was the best solution.

And. The war pictures themselves. When I think war I'm trained from the Australian perspective and I don't know if you realise this but we live in a very unpopulated part of the world. If you look at many of the places Australian's serve we've been doing time in deserts and jungles since before deserts and jungles were cool. War today is very isolated - if there are civilian causalities they are small. WWII trashed cities. I mean we probably still trash cities today but I'm talking ran the city over with tanks and tore down the buildings on main street.

I shall try to share the cool things I come across like this more often. Though if you've found my blog you've likely already found this through StumbleUpon or your chosen procrastination search tool yourself.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

To Drink or Not To Drink....

Ever stop on a Saturday night. Look at yourself having a quite one and think, 'Wow I would love to be out right now.' To deny that I've had that experience would be wrong of me however it isn't a common one. Much more likely. I look at myself. My computer accompaniment of country/classical music, my school work open or more likely a chat window. Me stone-cold sober. 'I would not trade being on the town and pissed for any part of this,' is what I'm thinking at these times.

I'm 21, which means as an Australian I've been of legal drinking age for more than three years. Being Australian too drinking is a common cultural ritual. Certainly no party seems to be complete without somebody on the drink making an ass of themselves. I've been to plenty of them, though by most standards I could not, even now be called a 'heavy drinker' or even a 'regular drinker'.

I'm also a Christian. Unless you come from a serious legalistic sect (interpret this as me thinking that is an incorrect view of my faith) drinking isn't against any Christian rule. Certainly as one of my Christian uni group leaders reminds us Jesus' first miracle was turning water to wine. However allowing yourself to become drunk is not loving, is not allowing you to present yourself in a Godly manner and therefore not such a good thing. As one of my non-Christian friends is always reminding me the golden rule is "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12. When drunk the probability of not living up to that is very, VERY high.

This past week we were looking at Ephesians 4:17-24. Which in the NIV falls under a head entitled 'Instructions for Holy Living'. It ended with a discussion about how to avoid some of the major issues of our generation and university. The drinking culture in particular. 'What is your drinking plan to help you not go past the limit between acceptable and drunk and inappropriate?' To be honest I don't have a plan. I sort of just go with the flow - and yes that has ended as badly at times as it sounds like it would.

I've been thinking hard since that night? Why drink at all? Certainly you can be a Christian and drink or be a Christian and not. For me personally, do I need to drink? I don't think I do it for the right reasons, not sure I can give an example of what I would consider to be a 'right' reason for drinking. I drink because it is easy, because it is there, because my friends do it, it makes social situations easier and more entertaining. None of those reasons are for God, or even for myself. So why?

I've always been in the drinking camp because I don't believe in not drinking with the vicious intent of many non-drinkers. (If you don't think some non-drinkers have viciously negative opinions of drinking I've got a couple to introduce you too.) However, I think it is something I could realistically do. I've never drunk at Christian activities - despite many of those around me doing so - so why should I feel it acceptable to drink at non-Christian activities. 

I know the alcohol to be entertaining. One of two drinks makes the pool flow more easily and the conversation loosen just the point of good smart conversations about the life, the universe and everything. However at the end of the night things have never stopped at that point. That point is a façade, an unsustainable façade. Towards the end it turns messy, things done are regretted or spoken of with joking shame.

I don't want to be ashamed of my actions like that. I'm not a Christian except when I drink but at times I think that is how I act. 

Can I do it though? Stop drinking. I can't stop anything. I struggle with the deep founded belief to carry me through with self-deprivation practices. Should I do it is the question I need the answer to. I'm not at the point of saying yes to that just yet but I feel that it isn't far away. You know what? Coke and good company is more fun than any amount of alcohol (particularly a large amount of alcohol).