31 December 2010

End of the Year Assessment

Writing has slipped a bit, although not entirely. I've started a new blog/e-zine with a couple of friends of mine which has taken some of my time away. Although that's personal in a sense that we are commenting on things, it's also work related, so it's not personal in the way this blog is. If you know me and you want the link, send me an email. If you don't know me, I'm afraid that there will be no link between this blog and that as I use my real name there.

So it's the end of the year. Or really, a rather arbitrary moment in time that we call the end of the year. I generally hate new years as the biggest let down and non-holiday holiday that there is. People always put so much effort and need into it and it almost always disappoints. So I generally opt out of New Years type celebrations. But I don't tend to opt out of reflection, because reflection is what I do best. Usually I just spout off on my own but I saw a rather long end of year assessment form so I figure this year I'll try something different.

What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
A lot. Though starting the PhD is probably the biggest and most significant. I also became a British citizen.

Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't make resolutions as I figure it's only a sure way to disappointment. My goal in life is to improve my happiness and satisfaction. I think I most certainly worked towards this aim this past year. My goal for next year will be the same.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, although babies and children featured prominently in the year. Two close friends of mine were trying to get pregnant. One is not yet pregnant and starting various invasive treatments, and one found out her partner is infertile. Another friend of mine didn't gain a baby but instead a step-child (well, basically, they're not married yet but they are all living together).

Did anyone close to you die?
No. Thankfully.

What countries did you visit?
This year was not very good for travel. I think I only went to the States and traveled around the UK. I'm starting next year off better however as on Monday I'm off to Italy!!

What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
A relationship. A good relationship.

What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I'm thinking back over the year and I have to say that no particular date is standing out or coming to mind. My birthday trip to the New Forest was excellent and I saw an amazing shooting star. The Xmas party of my industrial partner I got to attend at the Savoy Hotel. Getting set on fire unintentionally and losing a chunk of hair.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I still think starting the PhD is huge and as part of that, writing my first year report which was 24,000 words and 76 pages was the biggest thing I've ever written and a huge fucking deal. It made me feel confident that I could actually do this PhD thing and wasn't completely faking it. It isn't entirely tangible but I'd say one of my biggest achievements of the year is a positive change in self confidence, both professionally and personally. It has a long way to go, but I can see that I've improved and am not as hindered as I once was by the complete lack.

What was your biggest failure?
I'm struggling to think of anything as a failure. I've been lazy. I've lied. I gained some weight (when I say this, I mean only around 5 pounds but it's 5 pounds over what I consider my maximum weight and so I'm annoyed) and generally feel less fit even though I cycle in Cambridge.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Well, there was the whole hair on fire thing, but I wasn't really injured. I've been plagued by sinus trouble this year and a particularly bad bout of my skin problems. I now have the winter cough that won't go away. I also fucked up my shoulder at some point and continue to suffer various upper back, shoulder, and neck pain mostly due to bad posture. Oh and the BOHS came back which was very unwelcome. No hospital visits though, so I consider it all a success.

What was the best thing you bought?
My new computer. Was that this year or the end of last year? I think it was this year when I went home around Easter. It was time for a new computer and I couldn't be happier with how well this one has worked out for me.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
My friend H who I went on my birthday camping trip with and spent Xmas with has been pretty amazing this year in terms of her ability to do for others without wanting in return. I would be more selfish than she is, or at least expect more reciprocation. She's really done a lot in the name of simple friendship this year and it was over and above the norm or what's expected.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The most clear winner in this category is M. She has been a complete nightmare this year and I am annoyed by her continual sense of self righteousness and passive aggressive behavior. She has behaved terribly and it's shocking. In addition to that, there were two boys this year who generally acted like twats and were huge disappointments. My downstairs neighbor and his fence also would rate high on this list.

Where did most of your money go?
Most of it went to food, shelter, and transportation. This includes my weekly train back and forth to Cambridge and the extra accommodation that I pay for there. When I've splurged I've tended to splurge on meals out with friends, so that still falls under the food category. I did have some big purchases like the computer, my voice recorder pen, some clothes and shoes.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Finding my PhD topic, finishing my first year report, the Xmas party at the Savoy. My citizenship ceremony.

What song will always remind you of 2010?
I never think of songs and years. If there was some occasion that had a particular song playing, then maybe it would stick in my head. But this is not the role that music plays in my life. However, as I've just edited this to remember including my citizenship ceremony, how about 'God Save the Queen'?

Compared to this time last year you are: Happier or sadder?
Happier. Though there is always room for more.

Compared to this time last year you are: Thinner or fatter?
Fatter. Though probably only by 5 pounds, but it's enough to make me very very cross.

Compared to this time last year you are: Richer or poorer?
Richer. And certainly more stable. This time last year I was probably doing better as I was working for my old office, but it is entirely unclear how long that would have lasted. The PhD stipend is meager but do-able. I still take up some contract work, I have my lodger. It's enough for me to live my life generally how I want without worry right now though I'm obviously not saving much to speak of.

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Traveling. Having sex (though this wasn't completely up to me obviously). Seeing friends.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying. Letting people get to me. Commuting, although it couldn't be helped.

How did you spend Xmas?
Xmas Eve veggie feast at H's. Xmas morning present opening. Horse riding. Veggie feast leftovers. Volunteering at a Crisis dependency shelter. Dinner at another friend's. Crashing out when I couldn't drink anymore.

How many one-night stands?
None. I really don't like them and wouldn't aspire to any. Though G is practically a one night stand with only two nights to account for and his follow-up behavior.

What was your favorite TV program?
Being Human and Misfits will both rank high. I discovered Gavin and Stacey even though it was already finished.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate is a very strong word, so generally I'd say no, but M has seriously pushed my patience to the limit.

What was the best book you read?
I read a lot of books. I'm trying to think if anything made it to the shelf this year. Probably the best things I read this year were more work oriented than entertaining. Green Metropolis made a big impression on me.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Again, I really don't think that I think of music in this way. I don't spend time listening to much new music or being up to date with musicians. I tend to rely on old favorites. WXPN World Cafe Cd's always provide new stimulation however. And if I really had to pick a new discovery it would be Tim Minchin who I only learned about this year and then got to see perform. I heart him.

What did you want and get?

Er... a computer? Some sex? British citizenship! That was a big deal, and a long time wanting!

What was your favorite film of this year?
Damn. I'm not sure I remember the films I saw this year. I'm sure I saw some good films as well, but I'm having a hard time calling any to mind. I'm going to have to say Scott Pilgrim vs. the World which was a really entertaining film and I had entertaining company for it. Unfortunately that company turned out to be one of the two twatty boys. Avatar was also good, if only for the pure visual spectacle of it.

What did you do on your birthday and hold old were you?
I was camping in the New Forest with H. I was riding my bike across a stream. I was eating Ottolenghi treats under an open sky and watching meteors. I was sleeping in a tent. I was reading the True Blood books. I was stroking the nose of a horse. I turned 36.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Concept? What concept?

What kept you sane?
My friends. Always.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I never particularly fancy celebrities. I think they'd all be arrogant and shit in bed.

What political issue stirred you the most?
All of them? I am not in favor of the new UK government and many of their policies. Intense budget cuts with no real plans for how to address the issues, tuition fee increases without a good plan for providing funding for students who need it. In the US the continual polarization of politics is infuriating. As are climate change deniers and the lack of the Conference of Parties to reach a global agreement on emissions.

Who did you miss?
My Aunt. I always miss my aunt even though she's been gone over 10 years now. I missed S who is off in Africa. I missed a lot of my friends as I was often someplace else.

Who was the best new person you met?
I met a lot of people in Cambridge this year and at my industrial partner's office. I also met a guy who dazzled me and who also has turned into one of the worst people I met all year. Typical.

What is a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010?
I do have actual skills. Yes, they could be better, and yes, there are people out there better than me but it doesn't invalidate that I actually have skills of my own.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
You put your right foot in, you take your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about....

11 December 2010

And Relax

Well, sort of. For the most part. December 10th has now come and gone and with it the last bit of major work that I needed to concern myself with this year. The workshop seemed to go very well. There were a lot of important and knowledgeable people there who seemed to really get into what we were asking them to do. There were a couple of small glitches, but mostly things that I noticed, because I am a perfectionist and because I am actually reasonably good at this sort of stuff, I notice when people don't do as well or don't do what they should have done. But it didn't negatively impact the day in particular, and so in general I would say it went well.

I was exhausted going home- I feel fast asleep on the bus. I mean, I often fall asleep on the bus but I wouldn't have been surprised if I was snoring or something this time. I was really out of it and did the whole 'jerk awake' thing a couple of times.

This morning my cough seems a bit worse for all the talking I've been doing lately, and my back and neck are sort of hurting (though this is probably more from doing exactly what I'm doing now- typing on the sofa as opposed to sitting in a good chair). But really I'm looking at a significant portion of down time until mid-January when I need to kick off with my own work and research now, which I'm really very excited about (though somewhat intimidated by).

This past week on Wednesday I also had my second meeting as 'Director of Studies' with my three students on the Master's course at Cambridge. Those went very well and I was flattered because all three of the students reported that in discussion with other students on the course, they all felt I was the best DoS and also supervisor that anyone had. That made me feel very good. Who wouldn't like validation for the work that they do? But in particular I do think that after the PhD I want to look into teaching more and it's this sort of thing that makes me feel like that's exactly the right decision. I know I won't be ideal for every student, and there will always be students who don't like me, or don't get what I'm trying to tell them. But in general if the feedback is positive, then that will help me overcome my tendency to fixate on 'bad things'. At any rate, right now I feel very good about it because all I got was positive feedback so that made me happy.

Amusingly this experience was contrasted by having a big argument on the same day with A who is the other PhD student that started when I started. We were discussing the information for the workshop and he had undertaken one of the major exercises and we were going through it and I was pointing out a few things I would change. Everything I point out to him he argues with me about. I wanted to be like, "Look. I've done probably over 100 consultations, workshops, stakeholder meetings, or professional meetings with diverse professional people IN THIS INDUSTRY and I think I know what wording works best and what doesn't, and how to put together a handout." But I didn't, because that would have been incredibly bitchy and probably not received well. But honestly. It's entirely obvious that he feels a need to 'prove' that we are equal, but I'm ten years older than him and have worked substantially, so while we are equal in the PhD sense, we are certainly not equal in the life experience sense and I really wish he'd recognize that sometimes instead of always arguing with me.

Also, when someone argues with me like that about something I am sure about, I don't back down either. So it becomes a very useless exercise. I did keep saying to him that I didn't want to discuss it and we needed to call the third person (who I knew he would listen to) but he just kept hammering on about it so I kept deflecting. It was just overall, very annoying. But I'm really not sure how else to deal with him as I'm certainly not going to let him have has own way, especially when it is anything that is going to have my name attached to it, and I think he's completely and utterly wrong.

In boy land there isn't too much of interest going on. Little jackrabbit is off in Columbia, though he did send me an email so that was nice. I also have been sitting on a huge annoyance at Econ so I sent him a text last night which only said 'nudge' but was enough to kick off a text conversation and plans to meet up next week and maybe the week after. I probably shouldn't have done that in the sense that, I should find a way to just let him drop off. But I knew that he'd be in touch at some point anyway so it's no good to try and let someone go when they just pop up again unless it's more finished in my opinion. So whatever. I don't hope for anything from him in particular, and I do enjoy his company, and if we meet up maybe I will tell him off for being so crap about things. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Later tonight I'm going to Volupte for a friend's birthday. What I really need to do is go get a dress for that because I don't have anything to wear. That was my original plan for today- dress shopping. But right now I"m relaxing on the sofa as I can't stand the thought of the holiday crowds. Where can I go shopping with good selection which is not Oxford Circus? Need to think.