Thursday, 30 July 2015

The August Break Returns!

The  mindfulness blogger and photographer Susannah Conway is yet again introducing her annual August Break photography challenge and I intend to take part. It starts on 1st August and I have my camera and iPhone ready. Bring on the last month of summer and all the wonderful things I can photograph! :)

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

To Geek or Not To Geek?

I have a confession to make. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to my friends…but I am Geek. Yep. I love Science Fiction. I LOVE IT. When I was a child I was obsessed by the genre and I used to dream of traveling through space in a ship exploring new planets and species, usually accompanied by Mr Spock. It started when I was 7, perhaps even earlier. I blame my father. I think I inherited it from him. He has an obsessive streak to him. Once he becomes interested in something it becomes an all-consuming obsession. Whatever it is that grabs him, he does a degree in the subject. He reads voraciously on the themes of his chosen hobby. Or if it is a sport, he practices it repeatedly. At the moment he is taken with drawing and he works at it so hard and for so long that he has ended up producing some gorgeous pieces of art. Most of his chosen hobbies, he has some natural aptitude for. After years of barely picking up a pencil, he has discovered in his retirement that he actually has a previously undiscovered natural talent for drawing. He is naturally graceful and so is good at sports. He is inquisitive and curious so he is drawn to subjects such as philosophy, current affairs and literature. He is also a very good cook and has after much effort managed to produce a great meal without reducing the kitchen to a bombsite. But I have no doubt my father would be fantastic at anything he devoted his time to, regardless of natural ability. He does not play video games but he could probably ace all the levels of Angry Birds in an afternoon if he tried. He does not play a musical instrument, but I am sure after a month he could sufficiently play the guitar or piano and if he fancied giving poetry a try I am sure he would be reciting me his epic work to me over the phone by September. He is obsessive about the things he enjoys but it is more than that. He is persistent. He strives for personal bests and self-excellence. He is a driven man.

Unfortunately I inherited the obsessive streak of my father but none of his persistence or dedication. I fear that I am a lazy creature by nature. Sure I obsessively listen to the same song again and again, just like he used to (he used to love Pachelbel’s Canon – which is, let’s be honest, just one long repeated tune over and over again. It drove my mother mad) and I read all the books I can get on a subject I am interested in just like my father. For him it was ancient Greek philosophy, human rights law or Russian gulags, for me it is feminism, Tudor history, Scandinavia and animal behaviour (not all in the same book of course). We both have an addiction to TV. We can watch hours of it very easily and we both love to Google actors to find out who they are and what happened to them. My father looks up actors from old movies and westerns. I research actresses from science fiction and TV shows. We are alike in so many ways my father and I. We have the same judgemental analytic way of looking at the world, we are both anxious and alarmist, optimistic and yet cynical, vivacious and friendly, loving, honest and fiercely loyal. I even have his dark hair and long large nose. But we differ in one very different way; my father is more driven than I am. He is ambitious. He succeeds and then goes on to excel. I can’t think of a single thing he has failed at. Ever. I envy this part of his personality. I wish that I also possessed it. Perhaps if I had, I would be a published author by now or a professional photographer or a proper oral historian. My achievements are always half-assed. I work in relatively low-level jobs and I have never earned much money. I fear being tied down to any one thing for too long and I struggle to find a single thing to focus on. I always try to do too much. A jack of all trades and a master of none.

Except for one thing. Being a geek. I have always excelled at this. It sort of came naturally to me. I may never have written a science fiction novel but I have read pretty much every one I could find. Name a science fiction TV show or movie and I have seen it. I could tell you all about the characters, their stories and their motivations. It would be my specialist subject on Mastermind. I have just about stopped short at dressing as a science fiction character at a convention, but had I not been distracted by a Classical Studies degree at University, I have no doubt that was the way I was headed. For 3 years I was consumed by Ancient Greek and Roman myth, poetry, history and art. I was Classics-obsessed. And I must admit I did really try at Uni. I worked hard, but not hard enough. I could not apply myself enough in the first year of my course and I always do think I could have done better. People wish they could go back in time to change all sorts of mistakes, but for me I would return to Uni and work harder. I could definitely have spent less time chatting to my flatmates about Lord of the Rings and done more reading on Ancient Greek Ethics. I graduated with a good degree, but I could have graduated with a better one.

It’s not all bad. I have been a faithful friend, an okay daughter and a very loving wife. I do pour my whole heart into making other people happy, so maybe that’s my persistent cause. And if that is all I ever contribute to the world, well, then that is not such a bad thing. So why do I feel frustrated? Why do I always feel like I want to do and be more? Is it a symptom of our modern times that we constantly strive to do and be more? Are we never satisfied? It is definitely a ‘first world problem’ and therein lays the issue. I am a very very lucky woman. I live in a country where I am safe from violence, fear or hunger. I want for nothing. I sleep soundly in my bed at night with no worries about the fate of my family or friends. They also live this charmed existence with me. Sure, we sometimes face illness, bad luck and emotional strife, but we do not need to flee our homes to escape a war or scratch out a meagre living in some dangerous and demeaning profession just to feed ourselves. Our time is not spent struggling to survive. I have all my immediate needs and concerns taken care of, so my restless mind is free to wander. I have copious amounts of spare time, a luxury not awarded to the majority of people living on the planet. I can do whatever I want (within reason obviously! As long as it is legal) and I can spend however long I want doing it. I can be whatever I like and try out anything. ‘The world is my oyster’ as the saying goes.

I met a woman earlier this year. I met her through a friend and on a whim I invited her to my birthday dinner. I was struck by her. She is polite and kind and very friendly. And she is brilliant. She is really talented. She has skills in all sorts of areas and she has applied persistence to her aptitudes and excelled. She was also very modest and she did not crow about her achievements. I liked her immediately and I was inspired by her quiet success. It made me think, I have been taking my freedom and spare time for granted. If I applied my obsessive nature to really doing well at something, goodness knows where it could take me. 

On the few occasions when I have been really persistent and dedicated I have felt a keen sense of achievement when I have met my goal and my fear of failure has just melted away. I once climbed a mountain in the UK with little more than my mind driving me forward and I descended the peak in a rain storm with hail stones the size of golf balls bouncing off me. I sometimes forget it was me that did this. But I was determined at the time, I wanted to know that I could successfully climb the mountain, I wanted that achievement for myself. This summer I surprised my husband by swimming in the Adriatic Sea all by myself. He watched open-mouthed as I took a deep breath, jumped off some rocks, swallowed my fear and a considerable amount of very salty sea water. He was impressed and I felt brave. And ultimately that is what it is all about. Fighting fear. Because underneath the laziness and the lack of persistence is fear. The fear that I will fail. The fear that I won’t be good enough. The fear of what other people will think of me. As a teenager I used to fear people finding out that I was a geek. I thought people would make fun of me for liking science fiction. But to quote from a film (very geeky of me I know): A life lived in fear is a life half lived. And in a life where we don’t have much to fear because we are so lucky, we should not take our good luck and opportunities for granted. So…I am going to go for it. I am going to be fearless, persistent and driven. Oh, and yes, as geeky as I can be.