Educating myself

I know I am late to this party, but bear with me.

For years now I have refused to make New Year’s resolutions, the inevitability of failure looms with each promise made and so best avoided. I only promised one thing: I would not make resolutions.

And now I am breaking the one rule I had for myself, and inevitably failing even at that. This year I made resolutions. Yes plural, resolutionS. But today I want to talk about just one of them.

I want to educate myself.

I am already in full time education in the form of Medical School, but that wasn’t the kind of knowledge I was craving. As interesting as matters of the circadian clocks of cave dwelling fish are, it does not equip me for the day-to-day. I want a broader knowledge base, a place from which I can understand the world I live in a bit better than I currently do. For once I want to be the one with the answers, not just a million questions.

It is hard to come across this kind of information as a medical student. My nose is so often buried in a research paper that picking up any other kind of paper in my free time became abhorrent. Despite that I made a concrete, but modest, goal of reading ten books in 2017 in areas that I know little to nothing about.

I started off with ‘Sapiens: A History of Human Kind’, which I just finished, and will shortly write a book review on.

Lined up next I have:

  • 6 easy pieces – Richard Feynman (physics)
  • Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer (animal farming industry)
  • Something economicsy possibly Economics: the users guide – Ha-Joon Chang

I would be grateful if you have any suggestions to add to my list; please let me know! (The only condition is it has to have nothing to do with medicine!)

I wish that I could freeze the picture

Time seems to slip through my fingers like water, constantly gushing and elusive to all my attempts to grasp it. It feels like yesterday that I was in reception, reading about Biff and Chip and the Magic Key but when I try to recall that memory it is like looking through frosted glass: blurry at best. Since then every day seems to pass by a little quicker, each week feels shorter and the years seem to slip by without me really noticing.

Until that is, times like this. By times like this, I mean my birthday. When I realise that I am actually turning 21, not 18. In the missing three years so much has changed, I have been inter-railing, been a camp counsellor, moved away from home, become a medical student and I have learnt so much more than I ever thought possible (second year anatomy anyone?!). And yet everything still feels the same. I don’t feel older or wiser, I’m just bumbling along – making mistakes as I go, some big and some small, hopefully learning from them all. Nevertheless three years have passed, everything and nothing has changed and I am going to be another year older.

In 5 days.

(It was all an elaborate countdown, HA got you!).

Think Good Thoughts

For many people their thoughts are something sacred, something that is entirely private, they can’t be hacked, they can’t be revealed without the express decision to do so. You can think what you want. But maybe you can’t. The things that we think, negative or positive, taint the way that we see the world and so they affect our own realities, therefore surely there is something to be said about being positive?

Before I start: obviously, there is no way that we can be positive all the time, life has ups and downs which we have to acknowledge. Sometimes we have to experience the sadness, there is no way out of it but through it and in those situations denial is unhelpful and even harmful – negative emotions in these situations may not be avoidable, but at the very least we can be aware of it and seek help where and when we need it.

Positivity is the ability to see the good, even when things aren’t going so well. It allows us to see more ways out of a situation, we can be more innovative. This phenomenon in the literature is known as the broaden-and-build hypothesis. (1)  For a long time researchers have known that negative emotions have the opposite affect: we shut down, we can only see the path that is in front of us, and I won’t deny that it can be useful in some situations where you just need to remove yourself.  As one article I read put it: when you see a tiger, the presiding emotion is fear – which focuses your energy on running away, though there may be many other options available to you: climb a tree or grab a stick, but they don’t seem as important as removing yourself from the tigers vicinity. (2) However in modern society we do not come across tigers casually walking down Oxford Street, so maybe we need to consider changing the way we think.

Another aspect of positivity is thinking good things for other people and genuinely wishing them happiness and success. It is so much heavier to think ill of someone through jealous eyes than to be happy for them, and at the end of the day, though things may be going well for someone at this particular point it may all go to hell the next day. No one needs people wishing them ill from afar because life is difficult enough as it is, we should all be supporting and celebrating each other.

It should be mentioned here that this is by no means easy, the human brain is wired to remember the bad – it’s a survival instinct. (3) Overcoming something so ingrained in ourselves is never going to be easy. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy is it?

So send people happy thoughts when things go well for them, just because they are happy and successful does not mean that you have to be miserable and a failure. Try to see the good in the world, and be aware of what you are thinking.

References

  1. Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Fredrickson, Barbara L. and Branigan, Christine. 3, Michigan : Psychology Press, 2005, Cognition and Emotion, Vol. 19, pp. 313 – 332.
  2. Clear, James. The Science of Positive Thinking: How Positive Thoughts Build Your Skills, Boost Your Health, and Improve Your Work. Huffington Post. [Online] October 7, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/positive-thinking_b_3512202.html.
  3. Bad is stronger than good. Baumeister, Roy F. and Bratslavsky, Ellen. 4, 2001, Review of General Psychology, Vol. 5, pp. 323-370.

Summer is over.

Two weeks slipped away without me posting something, it did not take me long to stumble! To make up for the fact, here is another post…

Summer is over.

And as if I needed any kind of confirmation: the rain has begun to fall, and tonight the onesie has returned too.

Last week we (my family and I) were on holiday – but the rain followed us there too. Even on holiday – a sacred place where no rain should ever fall, right?! Before we left, a week in Italy conjured images of sun soaked days, gelato, and pizza: bliss to many, especially me. (Feed me and I will truly love you, I am a pretty simple being). But no, after luring us in with wonderfully mild weather, the rain began to drizzle. The worst kind of rain, the rain that doesn’t really get you wet – but makes you damp enough to be uncomfortable.

The thing about Italy is that it does not need sunshine to make it beautiful, not like Yorkshire. The grey clouds floating over Lake Como with the mountain tops peeking out the top was a sight to behold. And it was like a whole different world to when the sun did come out to play, I am even tempted to say that I preferred the rainy Varenna!

P1060693 (2)

I have always loved torrential rain. There is nothing more soothing than the rain pounding the windows before giving way to a whole new, cleaner, brighter world. That kind of rain is a world away from the constant drizzle that England gets, which clears nothing – just leaves the day feeling heavy and grey.

For me the best moment from this holiday was an evening dinner, sat outside in what began as a clear, mild evening. The bruschetta, prawn cocktail, wine and pizzas had been ordered, enough food to tide us over into the next week. Just as we took our first sips the heavens opened. And oh my, did it rain! The poor waiters rushed around trying to make sure no one got wet and offered us tables inside – but where would the fun be in that!? So we stayed outside, braving the rivers that were running beneath our feet, all the time admiring the force and amount of water falling from the sky. It is moments like that which remind you that you will always come in second to nature.

Summer may be over, but soon winter will soon be here, and we all know what that means…

 

North/South

I went to study in London last year and I left in September with big dreams for the big city and it fulfilled every last one of them. In the past year I have seen about 5 musicals, wandered around some of the best museums (for free!), went for a casual jog by Buckingham palace, saw Big Ben lit up at night on the way back from Ministry of Sound, eaten my body weight in Camden market and so much more. The city has lived up to my expectations and exceeded them. But in one very particular way it has made me ache for home.

They say that London is one of the greenest cities in Europe (/the world?) but I am a girl who likes the ‘green spaces’ to stretch as far as the eye can see and further and not be interrupted by the looming skyscrapers all around. As much as I love you, Regent’s Park, you will never be enough for me.

When I came back home I spent nearly all of it outside, hiking and running, the air was noticeably cleaner, there were moments when not a single building could be seen or a single car could be heard – to me it was utter bliss. But ask me to leave the house for a stroll through the fields before I left to London and you would be hard pressed to move me away from my laptop. But a year when the nicest walk near me was through a park in which you could still see the buildings on nearly every side and hear the sirens blaring quickly fixed me of that affliction.

For that one reason London will never replace Yorkshire in my heart.

Four months away from LDN have me craving it now though, I can’t wait to get back to a place where life swarms around you from the moment you step out the door. The whole world seems to spin a little faster down there, and I could do with a change of pace right about now.

London is fast paced, it is bright, happening and the forefront of the country. It gets your heart pumping and your mind racing, there is not a moment to waste.

Yorkshire is fresh, there is time to take a deep breath (and not worry about the carbon particulates entering your lungs). It can be peaceful and calm, it can stop your mind from constantly roaming. To me Yorkshire is a healing place after the blinding, deafening car crash that is London.

I lava you

I just got home from watching ‘Inside Out’ and to be honest my head still hurts a little from all the crying. It was one sad movie. But before I talk about ‘Inside Out’ we have to talk about the Pixar short that played just before the movie called ‘Lava’.

Oh my.

It is a musical short about a lonely volcano that wishes for love every day with a song: “I wish that the earth, sea and the sky up above will send me someone to lava.” I really don’t want to spoil the rest of the short for you but let me just say Pixar really knows how to tear your heart out of your chest and stomp all over it. I have never wanted to hug a volcano so badly. In all seriousness I would have been happy to pay £8 just for the pleasure of watching ‘Lava’.

Lava

After such an incredible start ‘Inside Out’ had a lot to live up to, and it tried. I loved the beginning and the end, the middle just seemed to go on a bit and ‘Joy’ began to grate on my nerves.

In the end, it was the message that they conveyed that made this film worth watching:

Sadness is worthwhile too, not just in an ‘it makes you appreciate joy’ kind of way, but in its own right.

In life we are often told to be happy, grin and bear it, smile but in between all the joy there is room for sadness too. No one can be happy all the time, and if they are I assure they are faking it at least some of the time. Expressing sadness can bring people to our aid and make them aware of what we are going through, and in the same way we can share others sadness and make the load easier for them to bear. Feeling sad means that we care about something and that is not something to shy away from, we just have to know that we can’t let sadness become the dominant emotion either. Sadness is part of life, as is fear, disgust and anger – these are not emotions that are deemed desirable but they may be necessary in moderation.

If nothing else, overly happy characters wrapped in their own happiness, like Joy in ‘Inside Out’ are just plain annoying after a while.

Write about what you know?

I have a grudge against the phrase ‘write about what you know’.

When people say ‘write about what you know’ I always thought they meant write about what you have experienced, and that is pretty much what the saying says in my opinion. But as a thirteen year old I had experienced precious little and suddenly I hit a mind block. I was convinced that I had nothing interesting to write about, and so I just stopped writing (apart from in my diary, my teen angst needed some kind of outlet). However I now know that the phrase is not meant literally and I actually think it should be scrapped for being so misleading.

I mean do you really believe that J.K Rowling ever had to battle a dark lord who had murdered both her parents? No. I sincerely doubt it, but she probably has experienced all the emotions that are involved in battling a dark lord. Anger, fear, hate, sorrow, anxiety – and that is what counts.

Similarly, as medical students, we are taught to empathise with patients, to put ourselves in their shoes but again we are unlikely to have ever been in their situation, but we have all had moments in our lives when we are scared and worried and we can draw on those emotions to relate to the patients in front of us.

Since my realisation that I don’t actually have to have ridden on the back of a dragon to be able to write about it, I am so excited, there is a whole new world of possibilities. So screw ‘writing about what you know’, write whatever the hell you want.

Stick to the End

At this moment in time I have three possible blog posts that are half written just taking up space on my computer. Each has a similar story, I start them with a huge amount of enthusiasm and flair, often with thesaurus.com open in the background and then I get to about the second paragraph and then the words dry up and I go off and get myself a cup of tea, leaving the blog post half finished. Blog posts are the tamest of examples in my life, I have gotten half way through volunteering/job applications, award schemes, books and then just forgotten about it once the novelty wears off.

I have a problem with following through with ideas, and it often occurred to me that I could achieve a lot more if I could find the will power to stick with something, to commit. For example last year around December time I was determined that I would get a job for summer, I even signed into a few student job sites and set up a profile with job alerts and everything. Even now I still get hopeful emails: ‘You have 2 new jobs that match your requirements’ but I am yet to open any of them or even write a CV.

Not following through on ideas is probably an issue shared by most people; committing to things and sticking with it even when the shiny new-ness wears off is not an easy skill, and I’m sure most of us fall prey to that kind of thinking at some point (if you don’t please tell me your secret).

Admitting I have this problem is the first step to fixing it, and in some cases this blogs existence is a testament to my progress. A year ago I would never have gotten as far as setting up an actual site, but on the other hand the lack of regular posts on here seems to suggest that I have some way to go before ironing out my problem.

But hey, I have made my way to the end of this one. Baby steps.

(Note: obviously you cannot follow through on ALL the ideas you have, and some ideas like knocking some sense into a friend with a frying pan over their head is probably not a good one to commit to, I am talking about the ideas that are good, and help you out not possibly get you charged with assault.)

Finding a Name

Finding a name for the blog was the hardest part of all of this so far.

  • Step 1: Google ‘name my blog’
  • Step 2: Open up thesaurus.com
  • Step 3: Google the new idea and see what comes up.
  • Step 4: Choose the one that sucks the least.

Some of the ideas I had in the process:

pen and paper

everydayly

daytoday

discoverfiction

secondthoughts

betterthoughts

rethinking…?

ridiculous

amateuradult – don’t try to google that, quickly crossed that one off the list.

The First

It took me a while to convince myself to write again:

I don’t have much to write about except my life and I didn’t know how interesting that would be.

I didn’t want to share everything with everyone, I didn’t know where the line would be.

And I will admit, even the thought of people reading what I wrote made me feel embarrassed. What would they think? Would they judge me? Would they laugh at me? Would I be good enough? You can see where this is going.

But I realised:

I do have things I want to share.

I don’t want to be a faceless writer.

And finally, who cares what other people think.

This is for me.

(But I hope you like it!)