Manchester x Ariana

There will be no tags on this post, because I do not believe in capitalising on tragedy. I do not believe that I have anything to say that has not been said, nor is it my place to say. But there are words – there are always words – for my thoughts and feelings.

Manchester is a glorious city; it’s like a second home to me. It was a constant of my childhood almost moreso than Leicester where my parents live, because every summer we would live there for my mum’s work. I went to shops, museums, gigs… Manchester is where I learned to be alone. A few years later, it’s where I learned to have a good time, as my friends and I trekked up to the gay district for more gigs, or I went to theatre shows with my folks (and had more civilised drinks). Later, my brother-from-another-mother moved there for university, and still lives there – I have spent four years not visiting him enough. In Manchester, people talk like me. They’re proud of their music, their history, their working classness. I love the city.

I have all of Ariana Grande’s albums. I wouldn’t let myself attend the Dangerous Woman tour because of my commitments, but I wanted to so much. I follow her on insta, my boyfriend loves to make fun of me for liking her. I like her music, and I respect her as a person – she is vegan, feminist, has attitude, and is kind.

She is my age.

As I listened to Ariana on my way to work this morning, having woken up to a notification that my brother had ‘marked himself safe in the Manchester explosions’, I was trying to digest my feelings.

These are people just like me. But that doesn’t make it worse, it just makes it more obvious to me. We, as a nation, have killed children as young and younger than attended that concert in Syria; in Iraq, we have systematically killed doctors and politicians and office workers just like the ones that were there last night, and their lives are not worth less. It is my firm belief that pacifism is the only way to stop these deaths, that we as people in a position of power need to stop abusing that power in brutal ways, and being surprised when people fight back in this war that we declared but do not understand.

I cannot condone this. I cannot condone anybody looking at a good time, at children or young people, at people – people just like myself – who meant no harm, and saw a violent act. A point-score. Revenge. A way to attract a beautiful celebrity’s attention? We don’t know what happened, and yet we are already condemning the ideology of the attack.

I cannot condone what the media will do to an already marginalised group when we find out who committed this act. Make no mistake, it will be a marginalised group: their ethnicity, religion, mental health status or citizenship will be punished by the press, regardless of whose action it was, and we will all mourn, and condemn, and forget, collectively. We will gripe when there is increased security at museums or schools or concerts. We will not address the problems that caused this terrible, terrible act. We will not acknowledge what we as a group have done wrong – yet individuals like Grande and the parents of the dead and injured will blame themselves forever.

The final word, though, should be ones for the fans at the concert. Ones that will heal, ones that will be an anthem, ones that the young dead would have approved of and enjoyed: we’re gonna be alright. I love you, my thoughts are with you. But for the grace of god it could have been me along with you.

Descriptors I Would Never Have Used For Myself

Last night, one of my friends called me a perfectionist. It made me stop and look around for a moment, and realise that maybe sometimes other people see me with more clarity than I see myself.

ferris bueller

I began to understand that when I was in therapy – my therapist made me see myself in more complex ways than I did before I saw her, but that’s her job. When one of your friends says something that reflects on behaviours that they have seen enacted multiple times, and therefore know as an aspect of your personality, it makes you stop and take stock of who you are. Your identity can be as much tied up in what other people think of you as how you define yourself, and I think her assertion was fair as well as surprising.

Here is a list of things I would not use to describe myself, but other people would definitely say about me.

A Perfectionist

I just like things to be as good as they can be, OK? But when you decide to flunk and redo uni modules because you think one of your essays is a 2:1 rather than a first, or massively freak out because your rice is cooked but your stir fry isn’t going to be done for a while then maybe you have to accept that your obsession with things being the best is coming from a different place than most people’s.

A Picky Eater

I would not have called myself picky. I love food! I love to cook, and I love to eat different cuisines and foods I haven’t tried before. BUT. There is a long list of foods I don’t like or won’t eat (from meat to mushrooms and from cucumbers to capers) and some of my requirements are quite specific (I like cashews but I don’t like their texture so they have to be cooked, I only like lemon in sweet things and never eat it savoury). I have been called picky before, and may have to accept that I am at least a little picky.

An Extrovert

This one is difficult. I do not believe for sure I am an extrovert, but I am definitely extroverted – I smalltalk well, I make friends quite easily, and usually show myself to have a lot of energy. Sometimes, though, I just don’t have the energy to deal with other people, and I usually recharge by myself or with one or two trusted people. It’s most noticeable in a morning – I like mornings, but if I have to speak to or engage with anyone for the first hour I am awake it makes me disproportionately grumpy. The whole introvert/extrovert thing is complicated by my anxiety – am I an extrovert with social anxiety? Am I an introvert with extrovert tendencies? Maybe it depends on the day. But you would be justified in calling me extroverted.

An Animal Person

I definitely wouldn’t call myself an ‘animal person’ – even though I (really) want a cat, I am more pleased by animal gifs than most people, love to walk along the portion of the canal path that goes through London Zoo, and follow more cat pages on social media than somebody who does not like animals would do. In addition – I’m a fucking vegetarian! My thoughts on vegetarianism are more complex than just ‘aww the floofies’ (I support the rights of Mexicans in America too, without having much curiosity regarding Mexican culture or defining myself as ‘a Mexican person’ – you don’t have to be interested or invested in something to want there to be less suffering in the world), but it adds up to the reasonable inference on the part of other people that, yes, fine, I might be an animal person. I don’t think they’re very interesting, though – just cute.

Lion-cat-cutest-cat

Timetable. Go away.

Whereas my last essay I had plenty of time to go off-schedule and have it take me longer (and it took me about a week longer than I wanted), with this one I don’t have that luxury. The timetable I’m going to set out is achievable, but cutting it fine so I absolutely have to stick to it.

  • Tues-Fri 9th – 12th – get to 500 words. Read all critical sources (which is mostly done already). Re-read Great God Pan. Washing up. Practice German. Go to work. Get some sleep.
  • Sat 13th – get up at 8am. Go through The Shining for quotes (but just the folded-down pages). Get to 1250 words.
  • Sunday 14th – get up late. Be ready to go out and work from noon. Get to 2000 words. Cook, and marinate something for the next day.
  • Mon-Fri 15th – 19th – read over and primp what’s done. Finish any mostly-finished paragraphs. Get to 2500 words. Go to work. Tidy room. Practice German. Get some sleep.
  • Saturday 20th –  Get up at 8am. Work in coffee shops not library. Reach word count of 3000. Proof-read and make sure it all makes sense. Hand in 1st draft.
  • Sunday 21st – Check citations. Proof-read and primp. Ask a friend to proof-read.
  • Monday 22nd – Go to work at 8am. Final proof-read over break ready to hand in for noon. Do not panic.
  • Tuesday-Friday 23rd – 26th – Work. Social events in the evening. Y6 evening.
  • Saturday 27th – Half-term. Sleep for a week.

I will not be doing anything that isn’t on the plan until the things on the plan are done. One might argue that my washing-up, for instance, doesn’t need to be on the list (that person has definitely not seen the state of my house right now), but I want to be able to include living like an actual human in my crazy week.

For context, this blog post is almost 300 words and I wrote it in a 20-minute break. Although it is much easier to write than formal language structured to make a point, I will have lots and lots of 20 minuteses, and not one day requires more than 750 words. This is possible.

Wish me luck.

To-Do:

  • Sleep.
  • Touch up roots.
  • Stop reading reviews of Ivanka Trump’s book (it wastes time, and anyway this cannot be bested)

For those people who were worried about the throbbing vein in my eye.

I do not have diabetes! I am not dying! I have not developed psychosomatic eye problems! I have early signs of optic nerve inflammation, a 90% chance of that not developing, and a stronger glasses prescription in the bad eye. She also recommended I get computer lenses –  admittedly whilst telling me all about the medical community debate about whether they actually work or not – because of the strain I’m putting my eyes under and because I don’t need them for distances.

I’m actually quite glad about this – it proves that I a) did the right thing by choosing the optician rather than my GP. They did several tests on their fancy machines and she instantly knew the symptoms and the recommendations for if my symptoms worsen (actually saying go straight to the eye hospital if so, which is concerning). They’re having me back in a week for one more test. It also proves that b) I am not imagining things, my mind is not creating bigger problems than the ones that already exist (this is a BIG load off my mind – I do not need to be seeing spiders where there are none again) and I can trust myself to take my actual symptoms of my actual problems to professionals, who can actually help me work them out. In actuality.

I’m not thrilled that I have to get new glasses – not only is it expensive (even for cheap ones), it’s a shame to get new frames as I currently have two pairs of cute, vintage-y tortoiseshell ones that everybody seems to like. I was quoted £110 to have these ones re-lensed by Optical Express, which seems frankly excessive, but may have it done by an online-only company (as if they can’t do it cheaper from a warehouse not in London and mail them back).

I’d also like to say a big thank-you to my Englishness, as the eye test was free (thanks Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert Dot Com) and I doubt I would have gone had it been necessary to shell out for it. God knows how anybody in America is diagnosed with anything, and my sympathies as it only gets worse for young people and ordinary working people and anyone who isn’t a very rich white man or Ben Carson.

Basically, hooray for no diabetes! Although, I am currently drinking my first Starbucks in about a century, and if they get their way I will definitely be diabetic soon. #sugarcoma

(My new look? Vote for your fave.)

To-Do:

  • Proof-read and primp Modernism essay
  • Persuade everyone I know to listen to You Must Remember This
  • Buy the Lush face mask that will get rid of my gross zit face (according to the lady on the Nars counter)

Anxiety is beginning to make me feel sick.

I will not have this, not right now.

I’m not going to accept having to ‘eat over’ the pit in my stomach that tells me I’m not hungry, feel sick, don’t need water.

I’m not going to accept my body’s craving junk food.

I’m not going to accept the overwhelming urge to go straight home to sleep after work.

I’m not going to accept that I don’t care about my job, because I do. I’m not going to accept that I care about all of the irrelevant things, because I don’t.

I’m not going to accept the urge to shout at people, because I don’t actually want that.

I’m not going to accept the urge to not speak to anybody, because I will be energised by their encouragement.

I’m not going to accept that I can’t take the pressures of life, because I can. I’ve done this all before.

I’m not going to accept that this is me.

To Do:

  • Finish essay 1
  • Watch The Love Witch
  • Eat food

Contemporary poets, horoscopes and therapy.

This is just a brief thanks to Melissa Broder (@sosadtoday, writer of poems, psychologically unwell person) for making my horoscope echo what my therapist said to me. I don’t believe in horoscopes, and I don’t think we should encourage them, but ya know. Thanks for this.

SCORPIO
(October 23 to November 21)
What’s the oldest tape you play in your head? You will know it’s a tape if it’s something you hear constantly about what you are doing wrong, the ways in which you will not succeed, and how you are unfit for one thing or another. Other cute tapes include the way things should or shouldn’t be done in the world and “right” ways to live. I’m not telling you to eject the tape. But listen closely so you at least know what it is.

The stress, the successes and the hard, hard work: why this is My Week.

I jumped out of bed this morning. Literally jumped, because the alarm on my phone started playing Layla at full blast and I wanted to switch it off as soon as possible so that it didn’t wake my boyfriend’s housemates or mean that he couldn’t get back to sleep. And so it began – I got to work early, I tidied my Fantasy section (it was truly horrific), I was done by the time it came to read with children, I read my emails, I took the massive pile of book returns behind my desk and… and so on, until 4pm. And since it’s essay season, it won’t end there.

Essay season is the time of year when I do not have minutes to spare. Usually in this period I will sit during my work lunch break with my laptop on my knee, munching lame sandwiches whilst I transcribe quotes from hardback book to document. After work I will go straight to the library via some kind of fast food (thank you, Japanese Canteen Tottenham Court Road) and work until I can’t concentrate or can’t stay awake anymore. This week is even worse than usual for work-and-uni balance: not only is it a four-day week (although fuck me, I was glad of the extra day of weekend, and spent most of it in coffee shops working) with less time in which to accomplish things, I have two major dates in my calendar by which a certain amount of things need to be done. Both of which are Thursday. One of which I need somebody else to have done something for.

You know what’s amazing, though? I’m stressed as fuck but I’m not frazzled. I’m now engaged in a setting where I don’t have time for anything that’s not a priority and my job is getting through those priorities as efficiently as possible. I can do efficient, smiley robot really very well, I know I can do all of these tasks and I know I will enjoy hitting all of those deadlines – repeatedly – with a hockey stick, driving them into the ground by the pointy end.

Historically, it has not been because of the pressure, but the moment after the pressure eases that the problems have occurred. That is the moment that I take a breath and find myself having a panic attack at the brutal fact that my workload has not eased despite all the things I’ve accomplished, that the bar I set for myself is still so high that I’m doing metaphorical chest hangs to keep myself happy – essentially, when I find out that life goes on no matter how badly or how well you do. Maybe that’s a comforting thought to some people, but not to me.

This year, though, I have done something very sensible – I have taken holiday for the end of essay season. Not time off to work in. Nope. Not time to travel in, either. Time off to sleep and do something nice and not achieve anything. Then maybe I can come back into work and be satisfied with the lighter pressure of the never-ending, non-urgent tasks.

Say it with me – holiday. HOL-I-DAY. HOLIDAY IS COMING.