Tag Archives: failure

#14 ~ Dating your Dissertation

Last Friday I took myself on a date. The usual time of empty cupboards had come back around (these things don’t change that quickly, but progress is being made). I figured I had two options:

1) Go to sleep

2) Drink water and go to sleep

The only problem with aforementioned options was that I was meant to watch a show that night with a friend.  I knew if my head touched the pillow I wouldn’t even make the curtain call. So I threw on a jacket, straightened my outfit, applied some lipstick (hey why not) and cycled into town. The local Chinese restaurant was the joint I was to grace with my presence, wonton noodles the lucky dish that was to nourish my somewhat lethargic body. Sat by the window, order given, the laptop lid was flipped open and headphones encased my ears.

I like spending time with people. I do. I mean, I can make myself laugh (I have a wicked sense of humour that only I seem to get), but sometimes other people’s banter does the job too. I enjoy listening to people, even giving advice, but deep down I’m a closet introvert. I need space, partly because I live in close proximity to the multitude of thoughts that swarm across my mind and sometimes seep out of my mouth when i’m sleeping. I’m an active daydreamer, my mind slipping from reality to possibility (today I walked directly into an oncoming van totally oblivious to its steam-roller capacities). So there I sat, wonton noodles on my right, a glass of water directly in front, my laptop and the audio track I was transcribing from at the tips of my (somewhat sprained) fingers. For the first time in a long time I felt quiet.

Still.

The noise began to recede. And I live in a lot of noise. The noise of emails, Facebook notifications, the constant, often mindless updates on Twitter. The noise of pressure, obligation, of commitments. The noise of fear and anxieties. The noise of desire, a deep longing, of jealousy, insecurity – it’s a bloody cacophony of sound, exacerbated by the people or messages that carry that noise like a body, weighty, loaded and ever-spreading.

But there, alone, I was quiet. My mind at times was unfocused – silly desires would take my attention from my screen to the window and back again – but for a few moments I was oblivious to the world. Inconsequential (except perhaps to the staff who knew my presence was more money in the coffers), but I was small, remote, petite even. Quiet.

I miss that. The stillness. Sometimes you can find it amongst people. The ability to sit, gently, and not speak. Too often though we’re afraid of the noise that roils off our bodies even when our lips are sealed – so we unseal our lips and let incessant chatter ramble forth.

But what I liked more was the focus.

As a creative person my focus can be intense, but often fleeting. Even in the course of writing this i’ve switched direction, pondered a few months into my future, worried about an upcoming competition, grazed a bit of the avocado lying on my table and considered re-logging into Facebook. And those are only the distractions I can remember. In the 90mins when I chowed down most of my meal (then spent the next 20mins recovering from indigestion and the after burn of the chilli oil I had carelessly poured across the entire dish) I was focused on my work. I had streams of thoughts linking arguments I hadn’t even fully articulated (I told you, I flip quickly), and a narrative arc that even got me excited for the viver. But my focus is fleeting, and therefore my conviction lacking. Unlike my sister who is a completer, i’m a spitfire. When the spirit leaves me, my hands stop moving, the punches stop falling, my eyes go dead and next thing – i’m out. I’ve lost. Lost focus, lost my drive, lost my engagement with life. It happens. I feel my body and mind drifting apart and then I want to give up. To just sit down and float, and breathe, and be still once again. To be intimate with me and my thoughts.

And that’s the thing. To do ANYTHING in life, to even complete my dissertation, I have to be PRO-ACTIVE. Sure i’m active, i’ll make grand plans, and sometimes, if the timing is right i’ll get to the end of them (while letting almost everything else fall to the wayside), but a lot of the time i’m not the initiator.

In sparring I have really good timing. I have a strong punch. But i’m afraid of hurting the other person, and of failing myself, so I often don’t leap into the danger zone, and when I do, apparently I don’t commit. So I don’t win, and weaker fighters get the point, because they were proactive.

I want to lose this fear of failure. To banish it to the darkest corners of existence. To be brazen. I’ve been socked in the eye, winded, jabbed in my gut, had my tendons ripped and shins bruised – I can take pain, but I take it from a defensive position, not from offence. I’d like to try being offensive for a while (not the insulting type). I’d like to try sticking my neck out and seeing what happens. Of being a completer.

Maybe then the piles of work that are growing each day would start to diminish.

Maybe then I’d batter my opponents

Maybe then that acquaintance would start being a friend.

Maybe then i’d stop being afraid, because i’d look up and realise  – i’d done it. I’d made it happen.

Who knew such thoughts could occur when one went on a date with their dissertation?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#350 ~ Miscellaneous.1: Sticks and Stones

(Written during my month long absence)

Sticks and stones may break my bones – but more often than not words really do hurt me.

They can be pernicious and penetrating wriggling deep into the crevices of your heart, your inner sanctuary, the hidden caves that even you are fearful of entering. Do you ever do that thing, when you send off an email or a text, and you know that you’ll be disappointing someone – letting them down. Maybe you have to quit an activity, pull out of a race or even miss a class, because you’re about to fragment into a million shards of flesh and bone, and you know without your glasses you’ll never find all the pieces or the thread to stitch yourself back together again. You gather all the courage that lingers like used up dregs of tea in your none assertive self, and click send. Boom – into the ether it zooms.

You wait – linger, hover on the thresholds of depressive anticipation, and then you get a vibration, or a new email pops into your inbox, and you wait, tentatively. Doing everything you can to not click open, at last your finger slips, or the dredges of courage somehow coagulate and you stupidly think you’re brave.

Shot down like an enemy plane, even the most polite response blows you apart. And English people have a way, a very tricky and sly way of phrasing reproof in a cold, polite but detached manner which encourages you to implode on your own – with no promise whatsoever of Red Cross aid.

Once the initial damage has been done, and you realize what a complete failure and disappointment you are in the eyes of whoever you had to let down, when you are aware that your excuses seemed like puerile dribble in front of their retina, and they are not in the least bit understanding, but rather more incensed or even pissed off by/at you, you begin to wilt faster than watercress in a nursery kitchen. Even after you’ve rationalized and played their argument over, seen it from their side of the fence, and even, to a marginal degree, agreed with them, all the confidence to keep trundling along and getting the rest of the work completed evaporates.

You find yourself writing a blog post for a 365 day blog that you have neglected for these past 40 days or so, instead of focusing on the presentation on poetic symbolism which is due in 30minutes. You get frustrated, and begin scratching your well oiled scalp until the coconut lubricant builds up under your fingernails, and your head is once more exposed to the raging elements which have washed your university city in a cluster of unromantic water pellets and dirty puddles – and all the while you’ve allowed somebody to make you feel shit.

You are fearful of the impending meeting in 48hours, trying to work out whether you should try to bold face your’e way out, put on a nonchalant attitude of –  Dude, it was in the past, get over it, and hey, this is life, people be busy – but you know that any balls you might’ve had at conception certainly never dropped. You aren’t like that – you’re a crowd pleaser. At your best this is wonderful, at your worst it makes you cower, fearful of even attempting to be assertive. You hate letting people down, because you have sold yourself into the fetters of someone else’s opinion – someone you don’t even know well enough to truly care about, but because they have a title, you submit.

And you’re angry. Angry as you realize this is a constant feature of your character, but the whirlpool of depression still hangs round you, tainting the edges of your being. Could you have done it any differently? Well, no. You were exhausted, you woke up 20minutes into the class and hand’t done the reading or the essay that was due in 3 hours. It was never going to happen – but you still wish it had, even if it was just to please them. Will you make promises and denigrate yourself even further as a worthless fool who shouldn’t be participating the extra-curricular activities which actually give you a reason to live (and might also provide a job in the next few years), you probably will say Yes to that.

Will you always be fearful of someone else’s words? Or will you get to a point where you acknowledge them, but can ultimately move through them, the sticks and the stones to create your own words, your own works and one day, be the writer whose texts are being discussed – and smile benignly on the student who won’t hear them, as their too busy doing their own stuff.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

#144 ~ Life Lesson No.19

Learn to laugh at your failures. Try not to take yourself too seriously. Remember, you can’t get any lower than the ground – so when you get there, laugh and get back up again.

Tagged , ,

#11 ~ Ca m’est Egal

Three attempts. That is how many times I have attempted to write about the crippling, mind-numbing disease that is fear. Not just any fear. But the fear of failure. Not even failure of something tangible. The fear that you may fail to please someone. The fear that your actions will engender disappointment. What an ugly word. The internal sibilance creates the audio image of a snake hissing, slithering, being. It makes you shudder involuntarily. You feel sick.

I go to grip my pen for the fourth time to begin my so-called timed essay. The nib rolls smoothly over the clean paper, yet only a trail of mindless blue ink spools out like a meandering spiders web. I want to write, funny thing is I have something to say. To my mind it appears coherent, intelligent, potentially holding a degree of worth. And then I see my report. The disappointing remark of my tutor. That vile word again snaking its way into my consciousness. Like a child eager to please, I want to wipe the imagined disdain from her face when she reads my essay. I want to please her. It is an insatiable desire that frustrates me. On one hand I’m told to be a critic, to challenge and redefine, re-read and reinterpret. On the other hand I’m told to please. I don’t want to write any more. It makes me sad because unfortunately I don’t think i’m strong enough to look disappointment in the eye and say boldly ‘ca m’est egal.’

Tagged , , , ,