30 Things to do before I’m 30

This blog post has been in the works for quite a while (about 4 months). I’ve come close to posting it so many times and at the last moment, talked myself out of it again. Last week some friends on Twitter were talking about the 101 in 1001 lists thingy and I decided that it was time to post this. It’s still taken me another week to overcome inertia, so I’m posting it now before I give myself the opportunity to back out again. Apologies for any typos, I’m just sick of reading this over and over and then deciding not to post it. This is a long one btw, so grab a cup of tea and pull up a chair… Jo.

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been a little internet-absent recently. Normally when this happens I come back with some blog post or other plagued with apologies and excuses. This time it’s different (and no, it’s not because I had to go to rehab following my Snickers addiction).

A few months ago I realised that I am now, officially, in my late twenties. I am 28 and a half (ish) years old. That means that in a year and half (ish) I’m going to be 30. I know that’s not an overly distressing thing in itself, but it prompted me to think about my twenties and wonder what, if anything, I have been doing with my life so far.

I started to think about the things I have done, but mostly, I thought about all the things I haven’t and I wondered why that might be.

Let’s go back to when I was about 6 or 7 years old. At this point in my life all of my friends had birthday parties at a place called The Big Buddy Bear Club which was a massive play area (ball pools, slides, tunnels, rope ladders etc.). The Big Buddy Bear Club was the place to have birthday parties. It was excessively good fun, for most kids.

I’m sure that given the amount of times I actually went to The Big Buddy Bear Club I probably had fun at least once, but all I remember is that I once got stuck in a tunnel and I found it very scary and upsetting.

I was crawling through a tunnel which had a gap in it. To cross the gap, I had to crawl across a rope bridge. As I approached the rope bridge I stopped. I wasn’t keen on crossing the rope bridge – it just didn’t feel safe. My gut instinct told me to go back the way I came, but there were kids behind me and I was too shy/scared/socially awkward to ask if I could crawl past them so I closed my eyes and hurriedly crawled across the bridge before pulling into a side tunnel and bursting into tears.

Even though I didn’t fall, and the rope bridge didn’t disappear beneath me, and nothing bad happened at all, I couldn’t bring myself to continue further down the tunnel. And I couldn’t bring myself to go back across the rope bridge, either. Supposedly, facing your fears means you overcome them. For me, it merely confirmed that I definitely found crawling across a rope bridge incredibly scary and that I didn’t want to do it again.

And so I sat there in the tunnel and cried. I cried about being too scared to go forwards and too scared to go backwards. All because of a totally non-threatening rope bridge especially designed for children of my age, height and weight to crawl across.

As I sat there sobbing loads of other kids crawled by. Some would give me a quizzical look before going on their way, others didn’t notice me.  Once again, being incredibly shy, I was too scared to ask one of them to help me get out of the tunnel. So I just sat there and all I could think about was how everyone in The Big Buddy Bear Club was having masses of fun except me. And maybe some other kid who was throwing up in the ball pool or something.

Eventually, after I can’t even remember how long, some girl I didn’t know saw me crying and helped me back across the rope bridge and back to where lot’s of extremely bored-looking parents were sitting on a bench drinking coffee and waiting for the party to be over. I sat with the bored parents until the end of the party, watching all the other kids playing and having ridiculous amounts of fun. I wanted to go back, but I told myself not to. It just wasn’t worth it, what if I got stuck somewhere else? What if next time, no one found me and I’d just get left there?

This is pretty much the story of my life. I’m scared of everything. When I face something I find scary I don’t conquer my fear, I simply reinforce the fact that, yes, I really do find that thing scary.

This is, apparently, how I roll. I seem to fear things I’m perfectly capable of doing, just in case something terrible happens. And so I sit on the side, crying, too scared to go forwards and hoping that, eventually, someone much more confident than I am will find me and I can go home.

Whenever I have taken ‘risks’ (and I mean that in the broadest possible sense of the term) I feel like things work out badly, and I regret taking that risk… And then that puts me off ever taking any other sort of risk or impulsive action ever again… Ever.

So now I ring-fence myself into ‘playing it safe’ that is: avoiding all the things that scare me, not making any decisions, and hoping that maybe one day everything will just work out for the best and I’ll be happy. I stop myself from making any decisions just in case I make a bad one that might make me unhappy.

So here I am. Nearly 30 and well and truly fenced into my comfort zone. This doesn’t result in a particularly satisfying life.

When I started thinking about what I have done this past decade, I realised that I’ve moved house more times than I care to remember, eaten a lot of pizza and watched a lot of films. I also passed my driving test, but I’m too scared to actually drive a car. And I wrote a novel… with no story.

I’ve realised that a combination of life anxiety and an unrelenting fear of failure has left me in this situation. I can either shrug my shoulders to it all and say that this is just the way I am, or I could do something (even if it’s a fairly small thing) to change.

In the interests of turning 30 and knowing that I’m heading in the right direction (or at the very least, be safe in the knowledge that I did more than move house and eat pizza) I’ve decided to make a change.

I started making a list of things I wanted to do before I’m 30. It’s kind of like a bucket list – minus  the  swimming-with-dolphins cliché and having death as the deadline. There are only 30 things on my list, but some of them might take me a while to complete. Others are small things that I’ve wanted to do for while but never got around to doing them – or simply because it’s easier not to bother.

I’m sharing this with you, Internet, to force myself to actually do the things on this list instead of flaking out like I normally do.

And I figured that since I’m sharing my list with the internet, I may as well write about each of them here. I foresee most of these things going spectacularly wrong (all part of the fun/learning curve, right?), and I’m more than happy to share those experiences for your amusement (you’re welcome).

Still reading? Excellent. Without further ado, here’s the list:

30 before 30 – The List

1. Join the Anthony Nolan register.

2. Have something (anything) published and be paid for it.

3. Begin to pay off my student debt.

4. Do volunteer work.

5. Be a confident driver (i.e. not have a panic attack when facing the prospect of getting in the car).

6. Write a new novel and complete my MA.

7. Learn how to play chess.

8. Take a yoga or meditation class.

9. Eat lobster.

10. Go ice-skating/sledging.

11. Learn a bit of Spanish.

12. Host a dinner party.

13. Walk the Three Peaks.

14. Try out for a roller derby

15. Have a party with a bouncy castle.

16. Master using WordPress

17. Go to a music festival.

18. Watch the films I haven’t watched (list to follow).

19. Go out for brunch.

20. Go to a drive-in movie.

21. Visit Edinburgh.

22. Do all the touristy bits of London you’re supposed to do when you’re a tourist.

23. Do a pub crawl.

24. Knit a scarf.

25. Do all the things I was too scared to do as a child (list to follow).

26. Own a round wicker chair.

27. Be a vegetarian for a week (or maybe a month).

28. Go on a random trip without planning any of it.

29. Stay up for 24 hours.

30. Work in the field for which I received my degree.

There’s a reason for why each of these things went onto the list, but I’ll explain each when I blog about them (because otherwise, this is going to be the longest blog post ever).

Four Bad Things About Email…

I love email. Email is my absolute favourite form of communication. There’s nothing I love more than getting into a long email chat with someone. Generally I find myself more comfortable composing an email than making conversation with someone. I’m not sure why, maybe because I have more time to think about what I’m saying. But as much as I love email, it is far from perfect and sometimes emails can go wrong. Here are four reasons how that can happen:

1. Tone 

It can be hard to convey the right tone in email. Sometimes you can unintentionally come off sounding overly serious and formal.

Bad day 1

Littering emails with LOLz and exclamations marks (or both) changes the tone from serious to idiotic.

bad day2

So what’s the alternative?

bad day3

2. Length

Sometimes you might spend a considerable amount of time composing an email. So much so that your email is less like an email and more like a light-hearted friend essay.

Long email

After clicking ‘send’ you might feel pretty satisfied with your work and await an email of similar length in return. Instead, you get this:

Short reply

3. Kisses

A common problem which can occur when you’re emailing your beloved during work times:

Kisses

4. Delayed Reply

This is especially bad if you spend nearly all of your time emailing and waiting around for replies and so commences a bout of endless paranoid mind-trickery. It’s bad news for both people involved. The original sender freaks out because they spent ages writing an email to which they never got a reply. And the recipient has unknowingly caused upset by not replying because they’re either too busy or just forgot. On rare and sad occasions the sender might completely flip out and follow up their original email with something like this:

Angry email

To conclude: I love email but every now and again it can cause severe social awkwardness, send your boss the wrong message and can prompt people think you’re stupid, devoid of a sense of humour and/or hate you by accident.

That’s why, every now and again, you should see people in person to talk and give each other hugs.

And the Winner is…

So, I’ve pretty much been torturing my neighbours for the past few days by listening to nothing but power ballads.

Thanks to everyone who suggested a song. I did say that the best suggestion would win a prize, and it was pretty tricky to choose just one. And let’s not forget… YOU’RE ALL WINNERS TO ME.

So the winning entry was Rosie P who suggested ‘Run With Us’ by Lisa Lougheed.

For those of you who remember classic Saturday morning 90s kids TV, it was the song played over the closing credits for the cartoon ‘The Raccoons’. I always found that a bit random, even as a kid.

I can’t remember why Cyril Sneer had such a big problem with The Raccoons. In fact, I don’t remember what this show was even about…

So… Congratulations to Rosie P! A really crappy prize will be heading your way very soon!

Don’t Stop Believin’ and The Week in Review…

This week I fell into a depressive slump but I’m not really sure why. I’ve decided to combat these feelings of crapulance with chocolate and 80s power ballads, which seems to be doing the trick, but I’m now running out of uplifting tracks to listen to. I need inspiration. So please tell me what your favourite (or most hated) 80s power ballad is in the comments section. I will appreciate it forever. The best suggestion wins an amazing* prize!

*It probably won’t be amazing. Don’t get your hopes up**

**But don’t let that put you off, either.

I didn’t do a week in review last week, so this week’s a double-whammy.

spam of the week

I honestly can’t decide which of these is the weirdest…

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Googles of the Week

I’ve noticed a bit of a running theme in my blog search engine stats this week:

If I look at p0rn on my phone, what happens?         

I have been eating a Snickers bar every day             

And there goes the last f**k I gave                                

How to watch p0rn on my new phone                       

Why can we eat excessive amount of food sometimes?       

If you look at p0rn on your phone can it pop up in the phone company     

Consume an excessive amount of food in one day        

I eat one Snickers every day how do I stop                           

Neighbours can hear me eating                                            

Blog of the week

This week I contemplated figuring out how to use Google+ but The Oatmeal’s State of the Web Spring 2012 made me change my mind.

It’s Friday the 13th. Feeling superstitious? Consult Nick Bryan’s Friday the 13th Diagram

And finally… Not a blog, but writing this week’s post about Jack Donaghy involved watching a lot of 30 Rock clips on YouTube. There’s a whole channel dedicated to The Best of Liz Lemon.

And that’s all for this week. Don’t forget to recommend your favourite mood-elevating 80s power ballad in the comments section…

I’m Recruiting: Could You Be My Mentor?

I wish I had a mentor. I can’t really explain why, but I think that it has something to do with my neediness abandonment issues aspirations of becoming a writer.

I recently committed myself to becoming a full time writer. That’s the dream – writing… ALL the time. Making the decision was easy, but once I had finished celebrating my decision-making, I realised that was the easy part. The reality of my decision involves working really hard all the time and not getting distracted or losing motivation. All the things I’ve perfected being terrible at.

Writing is lonely business. I’ve known that from the off. As a complete social recluse, I guess it’s part of the appeal. But every now and again I’ll get a crisis of confidence – a week will disappear and I’ll question what (if anything) I’ve actually achieved. Then I panic, because I don’t have the right work ethic. My writing isn’t good enough. I’m not marketable as person. I am an impostor, a fraud. I’m not really a writer – aspiring or otherwise and everyone knows it.

This is where the mentor comes in. The mentor has to kick my arse whilst also being supportive and reassuring. But not too supportive and reassuring. Encouragement is difficult to get right, particularly with weirdos like me. Too much encouragement and I’ll momentarily trick myself into believing I am doing so incredibly well that I don’t need to do much of anything for a while. I don’t really respond well to negativity so zero encouragement only confirms my fears of being an under-achiever and prompts me to fall into a depressive slump.

There are loads of potential mentors out there, and I’m sure someone out there might be right for me. But for some reason, whenever I think about my ideal mentor I imagine some dapper gent – someone sophisticated, wise, worldly, humorous, someone successful who can afford to by me mojitos.

Take, for example, Jonathan Ames’ mentor George Christopher in Bored to Death. Apart from the fact that he’s played by Ted Danson which automatically makes him brilliant, he’s a gent, an editor of a magazine, he makes martinis in his office and wears waistcoats. Brilliant. And to top it all off, he offers genuinely good advice:

Although, this is not the sort of chat I would want with my own mentor. Even if he was Ted Danson.

That said, George Christopher isn’t the perfect mentor. My perfect mentor is the mentor of mentors, the crème de la crème, the spaghetti to my cold left-over bolognaise, the Jack Donaghy to my Liz Lemon.

Without a shadow of a doubt Jack Donaghy is my ideal mentor. The tragedy is, my dream mentor is a fictional character played by Alec Baldwin. The only way this fantasy will ever be fulfilled is if Jack Donaghy actually existed and Jack Donaghy actually happened to be Alec Baldwin.

This pretty much renders my search for the perfect mentor futile and perhaps a little bit crazy. I’ve set the bar pretty high. When you set the bar at ‘fictitious character’ you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

I’ve contemplated trying to recruit a mentor  using an application/interview/test process. But I think that might put people off. And I wouldn’t know how to go about ensuring that my application form/interview questions/rigorous testing methods would result in me actually finding my ideal mentor. Also because it looks like a lot of work when I really should be writing. And because I seriously doubt any level-headed person would actually go through the process, so I’d probably just end up with someone more crackers than I am. Not ideal.

So the search for the mentor kind of continues whilst also collapsing and becoming redundant at the same time. My dream mentor doesn’t exist, so I can only hope that some day a Jack Donaghy/Alec Baldwin type will appear in reality. If they do, and they become my mentor, I suggest that their first job is to stop me from wishing fictional characters actually existed.

In the meantime, (and in case you have no idea who Jack Donaghy is) here are some of Jack’s greatest personal attributes.

Best. Mentor. Ever.

Spam Comments for my ‘energetic blog’, and other things… It’s the Week in Review…

My blog has been in a total mess this week. Mainly because I got addicted to Snickers bars I decided to change the theme on Sunday and then I didn’t get around to doing anything about it until yesterday. I lost about three hours trying to make my blog look awesome but, due to my lack of patience sense of style  WordPress skillz the best I could do was this.

Admittedly, it’s a little twee, and kind of looks like a blog for a sweet shop, but it will do. It’s times like this that I wish I was a lot more knowledgeable/trendy.

So there’s a new theme and a new ‘About’ page. This week’s blog post was posted late last night, right at the exact point no one would read it, because I was determined to post an actual blog post before my Week in Review post.

So.. On to this week’s Review of the Week, or Week in Review, or whatever it’s called (I still haven’t decided).

spam of the week

I’ve had some great Spammy comments this week – each less coherent than the last. Last week’s Review of the Week post attracted a wave of spam comments. Some of them, apparently, are on a mission:

Highly energetic blog, I loved that bit. Will there be a part 2?

 

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Googles of the Week

If I watch p0rn on my phone will the phone company know        Ah, another frantic Googler.

What is a faffer       If you Google this, I’m fourth on the list. I’m counting that as a win.

Nick channel drama in which big teeth        In which big teeth what?! Gah. What a cliff-hanger…

Funny lectures about glasses or eyesight       Late night lesson prep… Although, I’m not sure what kind of lesson this would be…

Blog of the week

The excellent Jenny Lawson strikes again with her “How to tell if you’re a troll” quiz.

I stumbled across this earlier in the week… Scho nintiesh.

This week the world lost Nora Ephron. Mekella Broomberg pays tribute to her over at For Books’ Sake.

I also found this interesting read over at Awesome Women of Twitter.

And that’s it… and yes, in case you’re wondering… I am longing for a Snickers bar…

And Then I Ate a Snickers Bar…

This isn’t really a blog post, this is just a confession of my recent weird behaviour.

So, I don’t really know how to say this but… this week I got addicted to eating Snickers bars. I have eaten one or more Snickers bars every day since Saturday. I can’t explain why this has happened to me, I can only describe the events leading up to this realisation.*

*This post is in no way endorsed by Snickers (but it totally should be).

Saturday

I was rushing around being busy and important and had to make a speedy trip to the supermarket to pick up some food for dinner. I also bought a pack of four Snickers bars – on a whim. They were on special offer. And it wasn’t as if I was going to eat all of them in one go.

I ate one Snickers bar at lunchtime. It was delicious. It made me wonder why I didn’t eat Snickers bars more often – they were so chocolatey and peanuty and full of that other thing which is also delicious.

Later, I was reviewing a punk gig (I know, it makes me sound 3000 times cooler than I actually am) and when I returned home four hours later, I was starving. So I ate another Snickers bar.

So far, so harmless.

Sunday

I had loads to do – like  writing, and sleeping in and combatting yet another mountain of laundry that had accumulated since my Singstar epiphany a few weeks ago.

At some point in the afternoon, I took a little writing break and decided that I needed a little pick-me-up. I figured that seeing as I enjoyed my Snickers bars so much yesterday, maybe I’d go out and buy another. So I did. And I ate it. And then I promised myself that tomorrow, I would do exercise.

Monday

I didn’t do any exercise. But I did go on a long mission to buy a mattress which was fun! And horrible. Mattress shopping is fun because you’re actually allowed to lie on the beds they have in the shop. They give you pillows and everything (I know, it’s sad that I didn’t know that). The horrible part is that you are followed around by a needy sales assistant for the entire duration of your shopping trip. To make things worse, that sales assistant constantly talks to you about springs and memory foam and other mattress-related chat.

Mattress shopping takes a long time. Way longer than I expected. Like, five hours longer. So when I eventually got home, I ate a Snickers bar. By this point my brain seemed to be following this simple logic:

Snickers equation

 

Tuesday

I made lots of notes about the new novel I’m writing , which was both exciting and productive. I later discovered that I couldn’t understand any of my notes because, apparently, I can’t read my own handwriting.

Then I ate two Snickers bars. One after the other. I didn’t even feel that bad about it.

Then someone from my gym called me and asked, in what I perceived to be a pretty judgemental tone, why I had stopped attending the gym. My gym have never called me before. I can only assume that they’ve been monitoring my intake of chocolate, and when it recently went off the scale, I triggered some sort of alarm alerting the staff to call me and guilt me into going back.

Wednesday

I woke up thinking about Snickers bars and told myself I really needed to get a grip and stop eating them every single day.

I decided to keep busy – I organised my entire life into various Excel spreadsheets, I cleaned the house, tidied my desk, vacuumed everything and then wiped every possible surface with anti-bacterial wipes.

And when I was done, I went to the shop and bought a Snickers bar.

Thursday

I went to the supermarket and bought more Snickers bars. I ate two and started to feel sick.

Later, I tried to put my phone on charge and when I looked down I discovered that I was actually trying to connect a half-eaten Snickers bar to a USB cable.

It would appear that I have developed a bizarre addiction that is slowly taking over my life. And so today I staged an intervention with myself. I was resistant at first. Then I presented myself with the following scientific graph to show how my Snickers intake had gone from zero to excessive in a very short space of time:

Snickers graph

You can’t deny science. And this is most definitely science and not a graph I made using MS Paint.

So I admitted I have a problem, and tomorrow I’m going to go cold turkey. I have given the rest of my Snickers bars away and I have hidden my house keys and cash, preventing me from leaving the house to buy more. 

Tomorrow will be a dark day.