Category Archives: Uncategorized

NaNoWriMo is upon us

So it’s November 2018 – Where has the time gone? – so it’s time for Nanowrimo. I don’t write novels anymore but I do like using this month to accomplish something. Last year I wasted the month because the wheels came off my life because of the American Election. I don’t see anything like that happening this year, but you never know. My aim for this month is to have at least one draft of my Formative Assignment done. so that I can turn my focus to the Assessed Assignment in the next month. This shouldn’t be too hard. In fact, I’ve been going very slowly. I should have done it in October. But no matter. We all know I’m a slow starter.

Having just had a glance at the module page on moodle, the assignment will only be available in January, so that will give me time in December to plow through the module materials and read my textbooks. If I can get through all the coursework by then that would be amazing. Then when exams come around I can focus on old exam papers.

Okay, I made a nice list of all the things I need to accomplish and we’ll see how far I get with it. Hopefully, pretty far. I’ve sort of made a decision not to drink at all this month so that I can focus on work, but I’m not going to be too strict. The occasional glass of wine is okay. But really only in company or to loosen me up to start working. I’m also not going to tell him this explicitly, but I need to spend less time with Roman. He’s eating up all of my free time and I really need to focus up right now.

Speaking of which. I am in a relationship with a man. He’s younger than me. Younger than I would normally be comfortable with but I didn’t know that when I met him. I don’t know where this can go, but I like him so I’m willing to take a chance and see. He’s a lot more stable and together than a lot of the older guys I know. He’s also more mature and more open and honest than the last person I was involved with so that’s good.

I haven’t been in an exclusive relationship in about 4 years and this is early days yet so I feel a bit like I’m flailing and not sure what to do with myself. I also have a lot of hang ups. I’m going to do my best not to screw it up and really do my best not to let my paranoia end the relationship prematurely. It did have kind of a strange start which I will discuss here NEVER. But I’m not going to let that put a dampener on it. There’s nothing wrong with having casual exclusive relationships. We can not see other people and still not be super serious. Anyway, it’s too soon for thinking like that. Cheers!

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Selfishness as radical praxis

I found out today that one of my good friends (well former good friends, if we’re being perfectly honest) has quit her job to stay home with her little son permanently. My first reaction was to despair for her. I immediately thought that her husband must have somehow strong armed her into it. He decided that his precious son needs this woman there permanently at his beck and call and so he guilted his lovely wife into giving up her career and sacrificing herself at the altar of motherhood.

When I pointed out that she had left (we got the news in a staff news letter) to some of my other colleagues, my single co worker looked a little crest fallen (“I know. I think she left ages ago though” *sigh*), but my other colleague, who has two kids said something that actually brought bile to my throat. She said “Yeah I feel kind of guilty. Maybe I should quit and stay home with my kids too.” This is a woman who is half way through her PhD, has a number of research projects going at work currently and made us start a podcast. The idea that she could decide that staying home and being a permanent nanny and leave all of that behind is just so galling to me.

I considered saying this to her but held my tongue and came to bitch about it here instead. This is in large part because every time I bring up feminism someone will say the dreaded “c” word – Choice. I hate it. It’s like they’re completely incapable of critical thinking skills. Just because you choose to do something doesn’t make it right or good and it certainly doesn’t make it feminist.

Now I can hear what you’re about to say: “But Natalie, we can’t all live our lives by very strict radical feminist principles. You make non-feminist decisions everyday. Those shoes you wore today for instance, which hurt your feet. There’s make up on your face. None of these are feminist choices, and yet you made them and you suffer the consequences” and i would agree with you. 100%. Not everything I do is feminist. and not every decision i make is feminist. But I would argue that wearing heels and make up is a hell of a lot  less serious than giving up your career.

She has given up her career and her independence so that she can become the embodiment of everything I hate about being a woman: someone subordinate to her husband and children. Now you can argue that being a homemaker is not subordinate, but i see your argument and I raise you a: We live in a capitalist society and money really is power. If you live in a house and you don’t pay the rent, and you don’t buy the groceries, and you have no disposable income of your own, then you have given up your power. You are at the mercy of whoever is paying the rent and keeping you in house and home.

More on this later. I’ve reached my 500 word limit. Damn.

Sitting on the dock of the bay…

So I’m at work. For what reason, I don’t know. I don’t have anything to do today, so I’m basically here waiting for someone to tell me what to do for next semester. I suppose I could start planning lessons and that, but what if they decide to change the syllabus and I’ve spent all that time working for nothing? I looked at the overview for the semester and it all looks quite interesting. I’m not super worried about it. But here I am, at work with nothing to do.

I’ve been reading American Gods. I want to read it before I watch the show. I don’t want to go in and then read the book. I prefer it the other way around. The main character is a man who spent three years in prison and was about to go back to his life with his wife whom he loves very much, when she died in a car crash and he got sucked into some supernatural drama featuring Odin and some other old gods.

The whole book is very surreal so far and a lot of strange things have happened, but the parts that are actually the most moving and difficult for me to read are the parts featuring his dead wife, who shows up every now and then to save him from danger. Before she died she had cheated on him with his friend and then the two of them had died in the accident together. And I get the impression I’m supposed to feel sorry for him because the love of his life has died and his life is in chaos.

But honestly, the only thing I feel is jealous. I miss that feeling. That safe loved feeling of being with someone and being absolutely sure that they love you and you love them and you’re just together. And that’s just the truth. It must be nice to have someone who’s just there for you and just loves you no matter what. I don’t think I’ll ever have that feeling again. All my exes have moved on and gotten married and had children, or at the very least gotten into serious relationships.

And here I am. Alone and in Suzhou. And honestly, when I think about it, I probably prefer it this way. I don’t think I do well in relationships. But it still kind of hurts you know? Why doesn’t anyone love me? Why doesn’t anyone want me? Someone once said that the un-examined life isn’t worth living, but I would argue that the unwitnessed life is even less worth living. With no one there to just pay attention to things you do and encourage you and wish you luck and listen to you bitch about a bad day at work, what’s the point?

This is the total antithesis of everything I really believe, but I’m feeling lonely. Also this went in a totally different direction from where I started out meaning to go. But maybe I can write that blog tomorrow.

Goodbye for now, sportsfans!

The road to hell 

…is paved with good intentions. Is a saying I never really understood but it seems apt at this juncture. This was supposed to be a blog for my writing, but it’s turned into yet another whiny personal blog. As though we didn’t already have enough of those. 

I just finished writing exams for this ill conceived master degree I decided to do last year. And I have to tell you,sports fans, I am not feeling good about them.  To be fair, I think I did well on the stats yesterday. But I’ve been wrong about this kind of thing before. Today’s Practical epidemiology was a nightmare of epic proportions. I totally fucked up at least three questions and it was purely because I had no fucking idea what they were even asking. 

This is because I somehow let six months go by without picking up a book and then crammed two entire shyly uses into 6 weeks. I’m a fucking idiot. If I fail it will be just desserts. I don’t deserve to pass. I didn’t do the work. I mean I did a lot of work in the last six weeks, but I should have been a good student all year and been much more familiar with the material . But I didn’t. 

I did what I always do. Which is to wait until it’s almost too late and then cram and then obviously I can blame the inevitable bad marks on that and not face the fact that perhaps I’m just not cut out for this path I’ve chosen for myself .

This is all very dramatic and when I get my results in a couple of months and they’re fine I’m going to forget feeling of abject failure on this beautiful summer afternoon in Shanghai.

But for now, I’m exhausted. I need a break. I should go back to Suzhou. 

On being a bad person…

About once a year or so, around the turning of the seasons from winter to spring, I have an existential crisis. What is it about this year that makes me hate myself and question everything? I don’t know for sure, in a macro sense. Maybe I’m just a bad person.

What does that mean though, to be a bad person?and if, indeed, I am one, then how to proceed?

Surely there’s some protocol. Do I just have to keep going to work and reading and seeing my friends and taking photographs and petting my cat knowing that I’m deceiving all of them all the while? Or do you suppose they know? I’m not sure. I think I need a minute…

It’s been a year…

Well more than  year now. I can’t believe it. Actually I totally can.

So here’s a quick catch up. In this last year I have:

  1. taken part in nanowrimo again. I’ve actually written 50000 words of two different novels now. Neither of them are finished but we won’t talk about that. I’ll revisit them one day in the future when I have time.
  2. started another masters. This is the third. Hopefully this one will stick. I’m really enjoying it so far.

I’m kind of worried that I’m too old to be trying to start a whole new career but I saw a quote the other day that said “Don’t be concerned about the time it takes to pursue your dreams. The time will pass anyway”. So I’m just going to keep going and do as much as I can with the 24 hours I have at my disposal every day.

I might even start creative writing again. Who knows.

Glad this blog still exists though. I might try to do a once a month thing or something.

Authenticity

This is going to be extremely unfocused and it’s really just about various things I’ve been thinking about lately. Not sure of the point of it yet, i just have a lot of feelings and want to write about them.

One thing I’ve always liked about myself is my enthusiasm for things, and my ability to get enthusiastic about things, and like things unapologetically even if they weren’t cool or they were too “mainstream” or unintellectual. I’ve always unabashedly liked the things that I liked and critics be damned. This includes music and books and movies and everything. I can’t stand people who are snobs about media.

If someone likes something and it makes them happy and you come along and the only thing you have to say about it is how it’s rubbish and they should be consuming this other, better thing, then I don’t have time for you and you need to find better things to do with your time. You need to gain your self esteem in places other than lording your superior taste in entertainment over people.

I’ve drawn this conclusion purely because I grew up in a very conservative home with extremely right wing, extremely homophobic parents. i was convinced i was asexual for the longest time because I never had any interest in boys. It dawned on me when I was about 15 or 16 that it might be because I actually like girls and in my little teenaged heart I was a lesbian. (I’m not. I’m bisexual. But I did identify as lesbian for a few years). When you’re a young lesbian at school and you can’t come out to anyone, you tend to form these really intense relationships with other (usually straight) girls. Which I did. With one girl in particular. You always hope they’ll like you the way you like them, but they never do. They like boys. They talk about boys, and you can’t understand why because teenaged boys are the absolute dregs of humanity. They are crude and rude and stupid and it baffles you why your lovely, sweet, interesting friends want anything to do with them.

Anyway, when you’re always rejected and no one you want ever wants you back and you have to watch people love things and people that you don’t, you learn very quickly, that there is no point in trying to make people like things they don’t. And that it’s stupid to try, because you wouldn’t want them trying to change you either.

And it happens so often with the things that young women love. The things that are popular with young women are so often devalued and seen as inferior. There is a simple reason for this: young women and girls are not valued in society. So the things that they love are not valued.

no no. That’s not the point. ugh. This went in a different direction to where I wanted it to go, but I promised myself that this blog was not about perfection, it was only about writing and I’ve written it now so now you have to deal with it. Later when I have a message more clearly formulated I’ll try to write another thing.

Writing 101, Day Three: Commit to a Writing Practice

Today’s exercise is about creating writing habits. The assignment is to write about 3 songs that mean a lot to me and to write non-stop for 15 minutes.

if you had asked me to do this 10 years ago there would have been 3 songs and they would have meant a great deal to me. These days I have the Breaking Bad soundtracks, Grimes’ discography, Muse’s discography, 2 Janelle Monae Albums and one Jeff buckle album on my computer and that is it. Not a whole lot of music for a 29 year old, but i’ll try.

1. Crystal Ball by Grimes. This song means a lot to me because I can put it on and write or do anything productive and not be distracted. This is true of a lot of Grimes’ music because she very rarely has lyrics worth listening to. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an insult. She sings indistinctly and usually quite softly so there’s not much to really sing along to. i appreciate that.

2. City of Delusion by Muse. This song is important because whenever I listen to it, I feel very triumphant and it’s one of the few Muse songs that make me want to dance. There are other, better Muse songs, but this is the one I’m listening to at the moment so there you go.

3. Lover, you should have come over by Jeff Buckley. This is arguably the greatest love song ever written. “My kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder” is the greatest line ever written in any song and I will fight anyone who thinks I’m wrong. I have listened to this song and cried so many times because I know that no one will ever think about me the way Jeff Buckley thought about the woman he wrote this for. He was 20-something and in love and waiting by the phone for her to call. She never did.

That’s it. I’m not deep I guess. This is the bane of my existence. It reminds me of what happened last weekend when I was attempting to pick up a German chick. I noticed she had a tattoo on her foot and I told her it was really beautiful and she explained to me how different elements of it represented different family members of hers. I showed her the turtle tattoo on my wrist and she went “that’s cute, what does it represent?” and I said “I like turtles” :-/

Goodnight, wordpress.

Writing 101, Day Two: A Room with a View (Or Just a View)

The assignment for today is to describe a place you want to be.

Now I’ve only been back at work for a few weeks and i by no means have the worlds most stressful job, but I’m exhausted. it’s only Wednesday and I spent all day thinking it was Friday and when I realized the truth i wanted to cry.

The only place I want to be is 30 m under water, near a reef, looking at fish. I love diving. I miss it so much when I can’t do it. I live in land so that means literally all the time I’m not on holiday.

I remember when I was last in the Philippines and we went diving at 6 in the morning so we could see the thresher sharks come up for cleaning. The little cleaning wrasses live in much shallower water than the sharks do and every morning they come up and get cleaned. The dive master took us down to 29 m and we sat on the edge of a really steep wall and waited.

Usually, when you’re down there you think you can only hear the sounds of your own breathing, but if you listen carefully you can hear the coral crackle. it sounds like rice krispies. Everything looks kind of blue because colors disappear along with light penetration. You move slowly, underwater. You want to conserve air. Move too fast and you breathe too fast and you can cut your dive time in half. My ex used to swim around like a maniac and our 50 minute dives would be reduced to 30 minute dives. Diving is expensive but they don’t charge you by the minute. This means that it’s probably one of the most stress free leisurely activities you can undertake in the ocean.

Thresher sharks live deep, and they’re long – up to 6 m long – and graceful and elegant. They move slowly up out of the depths and when you see them you can hardly believe that you are that close to something so beautiful. We sat on the edge of the wall, 29 m under water and watched 9 of them swim up and circle above our heads while the little cleaner wrasses did their jobs.

if I had a choice, that is where I’d be, watching the sharks.

Writing 101 Challenge: Day one

I’m doing the writing 101 Challenge. It’s from June, but whatever. Who’s counting. For those of you, not in the know, the first challenge is just a stream of consciousness challenge. you’re just supposed to write whatever you want for 20 minutes and then post that to your blog. So this is what i’m doing now. Tick tock. all of that took exactly a minute and a half. Crap.

Whenever I have to do any kind of free flow writing it always turns into this diarizing shit. One time I resolved to hand write a novel. I purchased a really beautiful notebook, went to my favorite coffee shop in Boryeong, (which also happened to be the only coffee shop in Boryeong, so good job I liked it, eh?) and sat down at my usually table and started to craft the story of… nothing. I couldn’t even think of an opening sentence. I spent the rest of the afternoon writing descriptions of all the people who walked into the coffee shop. Out of desperation I bought for the first and only time a sweet potato latte. Just so i could have something new and interesting to describe. It was gross. and my description was pedestrian. But anything for your art, right?

This is actually an issue for me because I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo for the first time. The problem I’m having with it is that I have been sitting on this story for months. since April to be exact. I have character outlines, A great concept and a notebook full of hand written Ideas and also a sort of vague outline. I’ve been doing research up the wazoo (not sure what a wazoo is, but I’m up it) and I’m so ready to start writing. But I won’t because: the rules.

I’m just afraid that, come November, I’m going to be so saturated with thinking about this story that I will have research/plan-fatigued myself out of any drive to actually write the damn thing.

I hesitated too long. I should have just started writing in April when the idea struck me. But nooooo! Two of my friends mentioned at that time that they were also thinking of doing the NaNoWriMo thing and I agreed to do it with them. And a promise is a promise so I held off and just did other things book related. all the peripheral things. No actual writing. Now here I am. A month and a half before November. terrified I’ve over thought the whole thing. Damn.

My wrists hurt and it’s only been 9 minutes. My writing technique must not be good. how do people do it for hours on end without stopping? i do not know. On the other hand, if i can write around 400 words in under 20 minutes, the 1700 odd words i’ll need per day to complete nanowrimo will be a piece of cake. I just need to carve out the hour and a half to two hours. every single day. Who am I kidding? 😦 I’ll just have to do more on the weekends. And take up waking up super early to write again. That use to work when I used to wake up at the crack of dawn to write short stories.

I haven’t done that since June though. I hate that all my good habits were undone by the summer break.

I have seven minutes left so I guess i’ll give you more of a life update. Not that any of you know me in real life, but I bet you’re super interested in my life.

1. I got a tattoo. A beautiful little turtle on my wrist. I’ll post pics later if one of the tasks calls for it. it’s true what they say. They are addictive. I already have a plan for another tattoo on almost every part of my body.

2. I no longer wish to work at this university. Academia is not for me. I tried it for 5 years and most of my twenties and I’m done.

3. I want to be a dive instructor. I love the ocean. I love diving. I love boats. I love teaching (i hate office hours and grading). I have a plan too and i’ve already told my parents and they are on board with whatever I want. Although, if I’m honest, they don’t really have a choice, i’ve always done exactly as i pleased.

4. I’m going to buy a boat. some kind of yacht. What i really want is a 50 ft full displacement hull yacht. but i’m not super rich so I’ll probably just get a mini trawler and call it a day.

5. I feel like I’m outgrowing most of my friendships. People misunderstand fundamental things about me and it bothers me more than i can say. I feel like I shouldn’t have to keep explaining myself to people who are close to me. this is probably quite cryptic. but whatever. it’s almost midnight, i don’t have time for full explanations.

Holy cow. 800 words. Go me. that would be 2400 words in an hour if I was writing my book. That’s WAY more than 1700. yes. Go me! Good Job Natalie.

there’s one minute left on the clock so I’ll just sign off.

thank you to the one of you who made it all the way to the end. You are a gentleman/woman and a scholar!

zia jian!!!