Archive | growing up

The art of doing a million things at the same time

anxiousWhen I started this blog–back in 2007–it was called The Art of Staying Up All Night. The name seemed fitting at the time. I wanted to talk about the things that kept me awake until the early hours: films, books and music. I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, even as a child, and as an undergraduate I fell into the habit of staying up until stupid o’clock (sometimes all night) watching film after film, finishing a book (and then starting a new one, because I always have to have a book on the go) or listening to albums on repeat and feeling identified with cringeworthy lyrics. Well, not anymore, so I’m glad I gave the blog a name change.

 

Last week Linkedin gave me a kind reminder that it was my work anniversary (seriously, who cares?), which means that for the past year I’ve been juggling two part-time jobs and, PhD, a social life and a relationship that for the first half of that year was long distance. Now let’s all take a deep breath, because just writing that made me feel anxious. Somehow during my last months as a twentysomething real life hit me and decided it was time for me to grow up a little bit, and one year later I’m still readjusting.

 

I was used to starting work at 11, which allowed me to indulge in my old habits of staying up late doing the things that I love the most and still wake up fresh-faced and full of energy. Now I had to wake up at six in the morning ready for a long commute to another town, where I was to teach English to future English teachers who were not that much younger than me, have a quick meal at a time which was not my usual time, and run to work again, this time selling furniture and accessories that I can’t afford.  This left me with two afternoons a week and weekends to prepare my classes (one of which was in a subject on which my knowledge wasn’t great), mark assignments, supervise dissertations, look after the flat, visit my grandmother, see my friends and, last but not least, work on my PhD. Time for another deep breath.

 

My favourite position

 

I am used to hearing questions like “how can you do so many things?” and “where do you get the time for all that?”. I’m sure all the professional jugglers out there are more than familiar with this and will agree with me when I say that very often, more often than I’d like to admit, my modus operandi is the following:

1. Think about how much I have to do. Then think about it some more. Start thinking about the following day’s tasks. Calculate at what time I’ll be done and then calculate how many hours of sleep I’ll get. Wonder if it’s all worth it and if I’ll ever finish anything.

2. Panic.

3. Work as if my life depended on it.

 

Thankfully I sometimes have the ability of working quite fast, and that’s what saves me, but most of the time I’m just wishing I was doing something else. When I’m preparing classes and marking papers I wish I could be working on my thesis and maybe even writing my own papers. Whenever I read a really bad paper I feel sad that that student is wasting her time and daydream about how much I could get done if I had as much time as a full-time student. When I’m at the shop and there are no customers I can often be found marking papers, working on my German or reading something for my thesis. My commute is usually spent wishing I was in bed, twitting about how much I hate waking up so early or reading a book, this time pleasure reading in order to avoid building up anxiety. Basically the only times when I’m 100% focused on what I’m doing are when I’m teaching (because that requires my full attention) and when I’m working on the thesis, unless I start thinking about how I wish I had more time to spend on it, then sometimes I panic. This train of thought and constant feeling that I should be doing something else is not healthy. I mean, at the beginning I burst into tears at the shop because I found it hard to find the right time to wash my hair. I know, right? I don’t do that anymore (bursting into tears, I mean, my hygiene is top notch).

 

 

So most of the time I find my mind is not really where it should be, and as much as I wish I could take Ron Swanson’s advice and “whole ass one thing” instead of half assing a million things, that’s not really possible. I could go back to my old job and spare myself the commute, but that’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life, and teaching at university is, so that experience is crucial to my future. Besides, despite how incredibly hard the first year was, I really like it and I think that one day I could be very good at it. Working at uni full time is not an option without a PhD, so that one is out of the list too. There is no way that I could quit my PhD. Although if the b-a-d times sometimes make the thought cross my mind, I am hopelessly devoted to my topic and I love it so much that I know I couldn’t stop even if I tried. The shop job? Easy, I can’t survive with a part-time job, I need the money to live and fund all my unhealthy habits. Thankfully I have an amazing mother who not only gave me a job in her business, and let me get everything I want from it for free, but also let me cut my hours to see if that would also cut anxiety AND sends the shop’s cleaner over to do my ironing every couple of weeks. I don’t think I could manage  without that.

 

Seeing as I have to carry on with this lifestyle, I’m doing my best to keep calm. This (academic) year, with my anxiety levels a bit more stabilised and hopefully going down even further, plus a year’s experience on my back, I am taking some measures to make it work and try not to be a professional multitasker, but rather someone who performs different tasks in different moments of the week.

  • I set a “go to bed” alarm that will ensure I get at least five hours of sleep, so I no longer go to bed thinking “oh god, I have to be awake in three hours,” which really helps. On top of that, my doctor makes sure that I get good sleep quality.
  • Before bed time, I lit candles, make myself a cup of tea, turn on some low lights and spend some time doing something for pleasure. Reading, surfing the web, watching something or writing this blog post. This means that when I get into bed my mind is not in work mode anymore and I can relax.
  • I don’t set myself high expectations for the days when I wake up at six. I try to make sure all my lessons are prepared before Monday, get used to the idea that my nap will be long and I will be exhausted, and talk myself into thinking that it’s ok to spend that evening just reading in my PJs. That way I don’t feel bad about not being the most productive person those days.
  • We try to plan meals so cooking is more a pleasure than a worry.
  • I rely more on to-do lists with items I can cross out to feel more satisfied.
  • I manage my work chunks better, particularly when it comes to research. I’ve learnt to forget about the bigger picture for some hours to focus on what needs to be done next.
  • I take weekends off going out after one or two. I love hitting the bars and everything, but being too tired or hungover to prepare my week on Sunday really takes a toll on my mood for the week.

So far these are the changes that I’ve made, and they’re all successful. And you know what the best thing about them is? Something I just realised when writing them down; I never set out to make changes, they just happened. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep them going for 66 days and they will become habits.

 

join us in victory job

 

This post was inspired by some work e-mails that nearly made me push the PANIC button. And it really is something I should have put into words a long, long time ago. I feel a lot more calm and I am ready to face my inbox without panic. It’s times like this that make me think the past year would have been better if I had been blogging about it. Congratulations if you made it so far, now I’m just writing some extra words in order to reach 1,500. There.

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Jump into the k-hole

Every time my feedly shows a 1 in brackets next to Internet k-hole I know I’m in for a laugh. This blog is like a bizarre time capsule, it’s the awkward teenage years of the past three generations, it’s the embarrassing pictures you threw away when you grew up, it’s the old family photos that you wish your mum would never show anybody, it’s the sexy pictures your pushy ex-boyfriend took of you before camera phones were invented. It’s the best thing on the Internet. The blog recently moved to tumblr, which in my opinion made it lose part of its appeal. Sure, now it is updated more often, but there was something really special about the sporadic mammoth photo dumps of yore.  Here are some of my favourite photos from the blog. I recommend that you check their archives on blogspot and follow them on tumblr, but make sure you have a lot of time when you do or you may never come back.

Warning: some of the photos on the websites are very NSFW

 

Continue Reading →

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Is technology making us unhappier?

“Is technology making us unhappier?” Just writing down this title makes me feel like one of those bitter old people who complain about everything young’uns do. “Your generation didn’t have to go through a war”, “you kids have it so easy”, “when I was your age I was making a million/year and had four children to support”, etc. We might not have had to go through war, but older generations haven’t had the misfortune of having their entire past available at all times. How typical of my generation to whine about those things that make life easier for us, huh? Don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as everybody, but lately I’ve been thinking about its negative effects in our emotional well-being.

 

 

After my Great Laptop Crash (GLC) of December 2013, I hadn’t found the right moment to go through the files that could be saved on my external hard drive until last week. I spent nearly an entire afternoon going through all the folders, deleting duplicates, working out what had been lost and, generally, confronting my past. MSN Messenger conversations from the early 2000s, embarrassing photo collages from the fotolog times, drawings old friends who I can no longer call friends made for me, scans from my collage notebooks, old stories, texts with cryptic meanings that invariably talk about quarterlife crises and trying to find happiness in the wrong places, my grandfather’s last christmas, the carefree years, the whatever years, the what-to-do years, even part of the high school years, every essay I ever wrote at university, photos of people that have left my life, photos of the people I love wearing baggy jeans and looking extremely young, all the files from my old blog, photos of things I thought were cool but aren’t, photos of things I thought were funny but aren’t, photos of things that are actually fucking hilarious. And looking at this made me extremely sad, and not a nice and nostalgic kind of sad, but the worst kind. The good things were making me sad and the bad things were making me sadder. Okay, I was premenstrual, but still. Is it really healthy for us to have access to all of this at all times? How can we move on when our past is so accessible? It takes effort to dig out the box of old journals and the heavy photo albums, but it’s almost impossible to avoid flicking through computer files, wanting to see everything.

I left most of my old journals at my parents’ home when I moved out because I don’t want to have the temptation to drown in them. I tend to be more creative when I going through difficult emotional moments, so everything I’ve ever made is charged with meaning. Every text I’ve ever written is full of analogies and metaphors for my own feelings that made me feel exactly like I did at the time of writing them. I don’t want to throw them out like I did with my teenage ones (a decision that I don’t really regret because I only ever wrote about people I knew and no longer care about), but I feel like some sort of restricted access is necessary for me to retain my sanity, and the same goes for digital files. Having school mates, exes and the fabulous internet people (you know, those one whose lives seem to come out of a magazine) a click away is enough. I can’t block people from the Internet (although I wish I could), but I can stop myself from having my past lying around all the time. That’s why, after going through my hard drive and organising everything, I left all the files right where they were, on a hard drive that I barely use. If I ever want to see them I know where they are, but my laptop only hosts files created in the past two years. Right now focusing on the present is the only way of moving forward.

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Hastings pier destroyed in fire

Hastings pier was destroyed in a fire this morning. As I wrote in a previous post, when I was 15 I spent a summer in Hastings. 11 years later I still consider that summer to be sort of a turning point that made me who I am today.
Even though these daunting pictures make me really upset and it feels like my teenage years are burning down, there’s something about them

I find them fascinating in a way, but not as fascinating as this one from the fire in 1917.

It’s a shame that these things happen. I really like piers. Piers are old and I like old. Piers make me feel like I’m a Victorian lady who has been advised to get some sea breeze. We don’t have piers in Spain. Piers are quintessentially English, and as a country that has lost so many of its traditions and folklore, they should be preserved. 

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On friendship

sunset in Munich

The other day marked four years since I moved to Munich. I find this very scary. I had never even been to Germany before and had no idea what to expect. That year turned out to be the best of my life and a completely life-changing experience. There is definitely a pre-Munich and post-Munich me. I got myself out of a depression I didn’t even acknowledge as such and managed to be actually H-A-P-P-Y. As in, “nothing is wrong in my life except for the fact that I’m leaving this place” happy. Obviously there are many factors that contributed to that state. I think it comes down to the combination of how much I liked the educational system there, studying some really fulfilling stuff and feeling like I was actually GOOD, living in a beautiful city where it is pleasant just to walk around and, most importantly, surrounding myself with amazing people.

I learnt a lot about friendship in Munich. I consider myself extremely lucky every time I think about how many of the people who now are my best friends I met there. Life throws us together with several bunches of people that we are more or less forced to welcome into our lives; those we go to school with, people we work with, university friends, camp friends, summer holiday friends, etc. and the sad truth is that most of those relationships die out even if they’re still your friend on Facebook. I find that, in most cases, people are forced upon us by the circumstances and, once these change, friendships tend to break because we realise that they were the only thing keeping the friendship alive. And because maintaining a friendship is hard work and, something people sometimes choose to ignore, reciprocal.

I keep a couple of school friends, a handful of university friends and my best friends I met through music and on a language learning holiday. I consider 7 of my Munich friends some of my best despite living in different countries. Needless to say, I have never been able to forge as many meaningful friendships from one single group. Considering I spent 12 years at school and 6 at university, the fact that I met so many of my best friends during the 11 months I spent in Munich is truly remarkable.

This video summarises what, for me, were some of the best moments of the year. Everybody who matters is in it.

 

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Londres, pastel sin receta

Last night I finished re-reading Lala Isla’s ‘Londres, Pastel sin Receta’, which translates as ‘London, a cake without a recipe’. I bought this book back when I was 18 and studying economics. Clearly my choice of books should have warned the parents that I was doing the wrong degree. Anyway, Lala Isla moved to London as a young woman in the late 70s. There she found her liberal self free from the conventions of Spain’s francoism, or at least that’s what she thought. The book mixes autobiographical references with a comparative sociological study between Franco’s Spain and Thatcher’s England. Lala uses her story as an excuse to explore the differences between the society in which she grew up and the one in which she still lives as an adult and offers the reader some insight into the British character that is not available to those who visit the country as tourists or to find themselves surrounded by hordes of other Spaniards at all times. Married to an English man and mother to an English-born child, Lala’s chronicles of pregnancy, wedding traditions, family matters and bilingual education go back and forth between the hilarious and the tremendously informative. Highly recommended for anglophiles or any Spanish person who plans to make the move or simply visit the UK.

This book has made me think about my first visit to England, soon to be 10 years ago. I was a 15-year-old who went to a Catholic school and had never been away from her mummy for longer than 4 days. I had always refused to go to summer camps or anything like that, not even for a week, but the idea of spending a month in the UK learning English got into my mind and, after much persuading, my parents agreed to it. That month turned out to be one of my life defining moments, if such a thing can take place in Hastings, East Sussex.

Even though Lala Isla moved to London in the 70s and I went to Hastings in 1999, I could still feel some of the same cultural shocks she talks about. It started when I got to my host family’s house and they explained they were vegetarians. I was horrified. I had never met a vegetarian before and couldn’t understand why somebody would want to live without ham. (jamón serrano or cured ham being one of the cultural pillars of Spain). On the first day, when we went to school to take our level tests, we were introduced to our teacher Geeta, a half Indian woman. Again, I had never seen an Indian person. Geeta was awesome, despite being an extremely loud and misbehaving group, she organised a barbecue for us and brought her two lovely children. In a similar manner, I don’t think I ever talked to a black person who wasn’t an illegal immigrant selling bracelets from bar to bar until I lived with a Jamaican woman in London a couple of years after I went to Hastings. My mother claims the first time I saw a black child I said “look mum! There’s a poor little girl!” because I had only seen starving children on TV. The only coloured person I remember in my childhood was a girl who played the violin at the same academy where I played the piano.


discovering the joys of a British summer

Back to 1999. After this placement test our group leader, who was also from Spain, gave us a tour around town. At one moment he stopped in front of a church and said “this is the Catholic church in case any of you want to go to mass”. My reaction was one of shock. You mean other religions have churches too? By that time I had already decided religion wasn’t for me, but had I been religious I would have just stepped into the nearest one. The tought that maybe that wasn’t the right church wouldn’t have crossed my mind. As far as I knew, there were a handful of other religions around, but I had never met anybody who wasn’t a Catholic except for my neighbour, who I used to tease for not having done her First Holy Communion (I know, I know). I had also never seen a church that wasn’t Catholic, so in my mind other religions were some sort of thing that existed in films and books, but not in real life.


Spanish students and a machus ibericus at some museum

One Sunday, we did a treasure hunt around town and one of the questions was to name 5 places where one could eat a kebab. Eat a whaaaaat? We had absolutely no idea what it was even though we had seen them and wondered if anybody actually ate that disgusting thing. At the end, we had to ask a local about it, who gave us an amused look that showed he clearly thought we were joking. We weren’t.

Kebabs aside, that month really opened my eyes. It made me realise that what we see in school is not actually a clear representation of what the real world is like and, even more importantly, that it is okay to be different and, as a matter of fact, most people are. Oh, and it did wonders for my English too.

This is probably the longest and most personal blog post I have ever written.

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THIS IS ART

I feel the need to show that I am not the only great artist I know.


Amanda decided that maybe I could be like Judy Garland but without the drugs and the gay icon status. Funny thing is my mother bought me The Wizard of Oz.

Erica pictured me holding a poo-shaped cake. I was hoping she’d show up at my party with one, but she didn’t. Maybe when we have a cheese party we’ll make a poo-shaped cheesecake.

Remember the shy kid in my class who looks like Alison from The Breakfast Club? She made this (it’s in English! I clearly win at teaching). When I went to pick them up at the dining room she came running to me and gave me this. The rest of the kids didn’t even remember it was my birthday. It made me feel very accomplished.

This is absolutely hilarious. The day before my birthday I had made a presentation comparing Gloria Grahame with Marilyn Monroe, so Rebeca gave me this together with a “Grahame kit” complete with red lipstick and cocktail glasses.

I love every single one of these. They have made me very very happy and I chuckle every time I see them. Danke my dears.

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Growing up

It’ll always be weird to see Macaulay Culkin as a grown up. These images are from Party Monster (2003), which I thought was average at best.

Another person who I can’t see as a grown-up man is Leonardo DiCaprio. To me, seeing a recent photo of DiCaprio is somewhat similar to meeting someone I went out with/had a crush on as a teenager and asking myself what the hell I saw in that person. It’s the fictional equivalent of somebody you had an intense summer romance with when you were 15 adding you on facebook so you can find out that they are in fact not as good looking as you remember them and have absolutely nothing to do with you (yes, it might have happened). I will admit that the first Woody Allen film I watched was Celebrity. Can anybody guess the reason?

Leonardo DiCaprio, in my mind.
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On going to concerts

andrea: I’m on a compulsory concert break. I go to whatever, but im usually not very excited about it. I go just because. And i enjoy it but, you know, not in a crazy teenage “omg i saw kris roe” way.
Clemens: Haha. Maybe thats better.
andrea: NO! I wanna be like that again.
Clemens: Is there any band that would make you go like that now?
andrea: Yes, but they’ve broken up.
Clemens: Concert-mid-life-crisis

This conversation was motivated by the order in which I decided to stick concert tickets on the walls.

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A new found love for apples

I like fruit. I don’t eat enough of it, but when I do I love it. Now, if you asked me what my favourite fruit is I’d answer bananas. A few seconds after this I would start to hesitate and think that maybe I love cherries, grapes or kiwis more. In winter I would probably answer clementines and in summertime melon is a must. Now let’s play spot the similarities between all those fruits. Shape and colour aside, I think you will notice that none of them need to be peeled. Yes, I really cannot peel a piece of fruit without:

a) Wasting most of my afternoon

b) Chopping my finger on the process (this may or may not be true).

c) Ending up with a tiny peach because most of the fruit ended up in the rubbish, obviously still attached to the peel. This is especially frustrating, since I adore peaches.

The worst problem is the first one, though. I am a very impatient person. When I paint, I can never wait for the paint to dry; I check my mailbox compulsively when I know something has to arrive soon; I don’t preheat the oven or wait for water to boil; I always have to go into the kitchen before the floor is completely dry and I get angry at the people in the photo shop when informed that my rolls will take more than an hour to be developed unless I pay a small fee. You can imagine then, my anger at the stupid piece of fruit for having its skin so tightly attached to it. This is the reason why I have never bought pears.

Now I am proud to inform the internet that my inability to peel fruit has been overcome. I am now a proud apple lover who can peel fruit on one go. I informed my mum last night with the following e-mail:

Dear mum,

I write you to inform you of an event that will unquestionably change your perception of me. Because I believe I am now in the middle of a key stage of my development as an adult. Today, April 9th, 2007 at 02:20am I peeled an apple.

I hope you recover from the shock.

Yours,

your daughter

Earlier today she congratulated me on my success and tried to convince me to like an apartment she wanted to book for our holiday with the following line:

But it has a garden, you could peel apples in the garden!

Obviously, I told her to go for it.

I am going to listen to The Apples in Stereo now.

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