Musings | On Feeling Goalless

I’ve been doing some thinking lately (a dangerous start to any blog post, I know), mainly inspired by productivity videos I have seen on Amanda aka shesomickey‘s channel and Leena’s recent ‘How to Slam Your Competition (kind of)’ video. Both of these women are amazing YouTubers and inspire me to think a little more about myself and my own life, sometimes in a flippant way and sometimes in a “deeper way”.

(Yep, you’re in for one of those blog posts, so strap yourself in and get ready for some self-involved and (mostly) selfish musing that is particular to my own experience and in no way informed enough to speak to anyone else’s experiences or priorities. Disclaimer over…)

Both Amanda and Leena have recently discussed life goals and career goals, seeing that next step you want to make in your life, and the skills or experience you need to acquire in order to reach it. Last year for VEDA (Vlog Every Day in April) Amanda specifically made a video about 100 Life Goals, a tool to get you thinking about yourself and your priorities and do a little self-audit of where you are and where you would like to be “at the end of the day”. It is exactly what it says on the tin – you take out a pen and paper (or a blank Word document if you so prefer) and list out 100 goals. These can range from “visit Japan” to “write a book” to “work for a non-profit” to “learn ASL”. They can be a mix of travel, personal, or career-focused goals, in fact I think the best lists probably are a mix of those things. The key thing to having goals, though, is making them achievable, phrasing them so that they are a clear Thing to aim for, whether that is to visit a certain place or to live in a certain city or learn a certain skill. Although skeptical I could come up with 100 distinct goals, I was nevertheless encouraged by Amanda’s video to get out my own pen and paper and draw up my list…

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Musings | Less Grey

It’s amazing the world of difference that a good couple of days can make. Don’t get me wrong, nothing spectacular or life-changing has happened – I just feel better about life.

Oh, listen to me, a twenty-something millennial who generally is all ‘woe is me’ about job prospects and the highly likely probability of still living at home at the age of thirty.

But, for the past few days, that feeling hasn’t been low-level pervading every thought that passes through my mind when I have a spare moment to stare blankly into space and think. And I can chalk this recent lack of that feeling down to one key difference – it has been sunny in England.

Before you scoff at the ridiculousness of such a blindingly obvious statement let me just say that, from Wednesday to Friday, I sensed a discernible difference at work – people were smiling as they entered the building, people had their heads held high wearing sunglasses instead of heads bowed to the floor because they’d just braved the chilling wind outside. The mood, the moral, the entire atmosphere was improved tenfold simply because it wasn’t raining and, the little wind there was was pleasantly warm. It wasn’t a heatwave by any stretch of the imagination, but it also wasn’t the bizarre hail and snow flurries we’ve been treated to in the month of April in the UK.

Everyone’s attitude, including my own, was a lot better off for such a simple thing.

With a little help from Spotify, I broke out summery playlists of more upbeat music and listened to that instead of my usual droning-into-the-background songs that I prefer to accompany my reading whilst I commute. (The Great British Breakfast and Feel Good Friday will both improve your mood and remind you of songs you’d forgotten existed.)

And, perhaps more importantly, I started to seriously consider the ever-intimidating question – What Now? – when I had a spare moment to stare blankly into space and think, except this time I did so without the usual generally grey and miserable attitude which ordinarily accompanies such thought processes. The long and short of it is that, having that low-level anxiety removed temporarily, I started to think past ‘settling’. To think past the voice in my head which shoots down any remotely moving-onward plan as soon as it enters my brain. To think that maybe What Now? could actually be an exciting and positive opportunity as well as an admittedly scary as hell question.

We’ll see how long it lasts. Cloud cover has meant outside has been greyer and colder today, but inside I am still working on job applications that would see me need to move across the country, something which, until this week, I wouldn’t have entertained past thinking derisively ‘If Only’. Like I said, it’s amazing the world of difference that a good couple of days can make.

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Monday 8th June | 22:30

I’ve been wanting to do something similar for a few weeks now but put it off because I thought that I don’t have the artistic skills or creative knack or way with words to do this quite as much aesthetic justice as I would like to. But you know what? Fuck it. You heard that right, yes. Sometimes it helps to remind myself what blogs are for (away from the people that are actually professional bloggers) – self-indulgent outpourings of whatever happened to be going on in a person’s mind at that moment.

So here’s what I’d like to talk about and bear with me –

Recently I had something of a… I don’t want to say emotional break down because it was not a break down in any serious sense of that phrase… but something, for a moment, in my brain snapped and I spent last Tuesday night wallowing in an entire pit of self-indulgent misery and pity. Because I am a person who has defined herself through, and been defined by, academics. And whenever I can’t “get” something, or I find I can’t focus, or I can’t come up with anything remotely intelligent to say, I have a mild internal crisis.

Because what am I if not an academic after all? What am I if not someone who can form vaguely coherent and eloquent sentences that express some sort of vaguely intelligent argument regarding a piece of literature? Well, Tuesday me decided that I was nothing. Literally worthless. And once your brain gets caught up in that thought process it is extremely hard to pull it back. Trying to combat its powerful effect by saying ‘no but I got into to university’ ‘no but I got a first, I must be doing something right’ and ‘I deserve to be here and saying these things’ does not work. It might in hindsight; I might be able to look back now with clarity and suggest these weapons against the ever-present cloud of self-doubt. But in the moment, on Tuesday? Not even close to it.

It helps to be kind to yourself. To focus on not what you haven’t done yet but what you have done. Don’t think about what you think you can’t do, focus on what you can, and if that currently unknown thing seems important to you then you can try to learn but it takes time and it takes work. Do not diminish every single thing you have accomplished and learnt over the years just because you find that, on one already exhausted evening, you can’t instantaneously wrap your head around a 500 year-old play you thought you knew inside out.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m going to try to convert that second-person addressed paragraph above and listen to it. I’m going to try not to berate myself about what I can’t do and what I’m not, I’m going to try to be kinder to myself and focus on what I have done, what I can do, and what I am.