Resolution Take One: Doing something new

Right so I’m cheating a little with this one, but I’ve decided to write about my resolutions and my attempts to stick to them. Obviously, my resolutions– and goals which are listed in the tab “2014” above– are fairly vague. I hope to make these more specific as I focus on something; so here it goes:

For the “try something new” and “make something new” resolutions I am going to learn french.

Now, like I said, I’m being a bit of a cheat with this one. As with anyone from the Isle of Man, and just about every other child who had an education at some point; I was taught languages at school. My primary school forced us to endure french lessons from year three, so I was about eight years old, with the teacher we affectionally called the “wicked witch”. We would dive under our tables when we spotted her car pulling up the long drive way every morning… Now, being 22 I couldn’t tell you if the lessons themselves were bad or she was a bad teacher, or maybe we were just a terrible class to handle.

All I know is that from then on I hated learning languages.

This carried on into high school where we now not only had to endure compulsory lessons in french, but also german. As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly thrilling. In fact, I remember my own mum (who worked at the school and was quite friendly with the french teacher) screaming my name down the corridor when she found out that I had been skiving the class. Humiliating as that was, it just further embedded my feeling of hate for the subject.

German, on the other hand, seemed a bit easier. The words were less romantic and flowing; and sounded much more english.

Ironically, looking back, I think I would have actually done better in French. I remember the handful of times that I attended the class and had to speak I did rather well. Though that might have been due to the fact I was in the lowest set and it wasn’t particularly hard to seem smart in that class. Maybe some of the wicked witch’s lessons had stuck with me because I have no fond memories of public speaking in my German classes.

However, year nine saw my lessons in any type of modern language being brought to an abrupt stop when those in the lower sets were forced to drop one of the classes (yes!) and when we were making our GCSE choices, those who were only taking one class were allowed to drop languages all together (brilliant!). As you can imagine, I had a very blissful few years of high school following this while my smarter friends struggled with their speaking, listening and writing exams.

Just to clarify, every other subject I was in one of the top two sets so I would admit that it was my lack of interest or motivation which made me such a terrible student in that area.

So here I am, over six years later and realising the importance of learning a language. Not only to make me “stand out” but the job that I want at the minute involves travelling around Europe, so I at least need to know one of the languages. Though my family is generally brought up with the theory that if you shout at them enough and add in some crazy hand gestures they might get the jist of what you’re saying– you can tell we’re not fond of travelling.

But as I was thinking about this, I randomly came across Michelle Wray‘s blog on learning new languages. Talk about inspiration hitting at just the right moment! She mentions several tips for learning languages, which you should read for yourself if you’re interested or bored. But one of the main hints she mentions is something that I’ve heard about before, DuoLingo.

Duolingo I’ve heard of before while watching some TEDx videos (I’ll go into those another time). But I found out something quite interesting– Duolingo is a free online method of learning any new language (seriously, there’s so much money being made in teaching people new languages it’s amazing that this is free and half decent), but it’s also doing something other than teaching you a new language. The website doesn’t offer you random translations, but you know how Google Translate can translate words and phrases? Well, Duolingo uses those people learning new languages with their product, and uses that effort to translate real documents.

Here’s how it works: Somebody who needs a webpage translated uploads it to Duolingo. That document then gets presented to Duolingo students who can translate it in order to practice the language they are learning. When the document is fully translated, Duolingo returns it to the original content owner who, depending on the type of document they uploaded, pays for the translation.

About Duolingo

Because there’s no guarantee that computer power is 100 per cent accurate and to use professionals would cost a fortune. So basically by using this product, you’re not only going to become a pro speaker (writer and listener) of a new language (like me, hopefully…) but you’re basically helping translate the latest www.forbes.comStephen King novel so people in other countries can read it also.

 
http://www.forbes.com

Though that’s coming from someone who’s only managed to complete the first Basic level on the website.

So let’s see how this goes…

 

“Shrinking Women”

I’m not even sure how I came across this video but, after watching it, I’m in awe at this woman. Though it’s a poem– and a lengthy one at that– I think I managed to relate to it more than any poem I studied in GCSE English Literature.

Now, I don’t call myself a hardcore feminist. I enjoy films which have a “strong female lead”, and TV series like ALIAS. I don’t question the use of female spies disguising themselves as call girls though, and I don’t feel the need to judge someone for having plastic surgery– though, admittedly, I might question the quality.

But I am a girl.

The idea of women being equal to men is a strange idea sometimes, especially in this day and age. Personally, I want to become a headteacher or a vice chancellor; and I know full well that there’s a “glass ceiling” blocking my way. But I don’t forget the idea, I acknowledge it.

It adds to the challenge.

I’m not your “traditional” woman, I guess you could say. I have no idea how to cook and I dispise cleaning. I go to the gym because I enjoy working out, not because I want to look good to impress some guy. I’m sarcastic and I have a terrible habit of talking back, especially to my boss and lecturers. I wouldn’t know where to start when keeping track of calories, and my weight doesn’t concern me unless I can’t fit into my favourite pair of jeans– but that’s because I’m a poor student who can’t afford another pair of £60, perfect fitting jeans. Heels are beyond my ability.

People regularly say I’ll never be able to get married because I’ll never be a good housewife; and I have no problem with that.

But the thing which struck me about this video was the fact that she says we “inherit” these qualities. In the poem, she discusses becoming “smaller” in order to accomodate men in her life. Be quiet, to be weary of calories and to be a good woman; and she had “accidently” learned all of these qualities from her mother.

Me? Well, my mother had no problem being loud. She regularly argued with her neighbours and she’s had various boyfriends in the past 22 years, in fact she’s been engaged twice since divorcing my dad for a period of a decade and yet she’s in no rush to get married. She doesn’t drive, there’s no need because there’s a bus route to both of her jobs. My step dad cooks, while she gives us money for take aways or frozen pizza to cook.

So I definitely agree with Lily Myers, we do inherit our traits by watching our parents. So I guess I should be glad that my mum brought me up against the “traditional” role of a woman… Because, if she hadn’t, I’d probably be at home with two children now and zero motivation to break through that glass ceiling.

Which I will. One day.

22 going on 16

moody My boss is officially worried about me. He is, he even told me so today at work. But he’s not worried about my late nights in the library which mean that I’m dragging myself into work; he’s not even worried about the (rare) hangovers which I endure through work (though they’ve been essentially non-existance since I started back).

No, he’s worried about my lack of ambition.

Ambition!

The conversation started when I mentioned that my landlord had been showing the house to potential new renters– students will typically start looking at houses in October for the following September so I saw nothing unusually in what I was saying. My supervisor on the other hand, panicked that I would be leaving immeniantly. My boss simply wanted to know what my plans were– graduation is only nine months away after all!

What plans, I laugh.

I shouldn’t laugh, it is a serious matter after all. The job market for my generation looks more terrifying than facing the Niagra Falls with my phobia of water. There’s simply nothing for anyone and even with my prestige Masters degree (the prestige being in the fact that I’ll have one degree more than the majority of the British population rather than the degree itself) I feel like I’m drowning.

But I’ll stop with the water metaphors, I’m making myself anxious.

The concept of needing a plan at my age is daunting. To me, it feels like 22 is simply too young to even be considering a career– I mean, aren’t us 20-somethings supposed to be racking up our list of one night stands and taking our teenage sheninagens to the next extreme? Every blog tells us that this is the time that we should go travelling, to jump out of an airoplane; that these are the years where we can be reckless.

This is the last decade we can justify hungover shifts at work and still living with our parents.

So why do I feel like I’m the only person who’s not in a long term relationship and a secure job before I’ve hit 25? Many of my friends and peers back home were engaged and pregnant soon after they hit 16, many are onto their second (whether that’s child or engagement ring doesn’t matter). I know people who have travelled the world on their own and with friends, while others have managed to keep a job for more than a year. It’s all quite daunting to me because everyone seems to have some idea of what they’re doing while I just want to hide away in my studies and never leave university.

The feeling is quite ironic actually. When it came to me and my sister, I was always the “smarter” older sibling and the responsible one. I had the plans while my sister preferred playing in the mud. But it wasn’t until I was talking about this to one of my coursemates that they suggested their own theory for this:

We all mature at different ages.

An odd concept of course, I don’t see myself as de-maturing. I still seem to be the agony aunt and take on the role of older sister at every opportunity, even when the other person is a few years older than me. More than anything I enjoy being right and having all the answers– even if I don’t listen to my own advice at the best of times.

But I guess that’s the problem, or not: I’m at the same maturity level that I was when I was 16. Even then I was responsible but I much prefered helping other people achieve than gain any limelight for myself; though if you knew me you might argue otherwise. I freak out if I’m made the centre of attention– and I think that follows with my idea of a career. I wanted to be a lawyer from a young age but my main argument for not pursuing it was because I wasn’t smart enough.

I was smart enough, or at least I had the potential to be. Looking back, I was just being lazy and by setting a standard like becoming a successful lawyer was a risk. I could fail and people could see me fail. I don’t want to apply for jobs which I’m more than able to do because I don’t feel that I should be given such a job. There are a huge amount of people who I know that are more motivated than me who have no problems, there are also many who are smarter than me who have the qualifications to do as they please. There are people I know who should be acing a masters degree but aren’t able to afford to do it.

And here I am complaining despite the opportunities that I’ve been lucky enough to get.

chances

In all honesty, I think my boss is right– my lack of ambition at 22 is probably a bad sign. But not because that means that I’ve potentially ruined any chance of gaining a relatively decent career and building a life for myself– I have plenty of time for that. But I think I need to do something out of my comfort zone, and to take advantage of the fact that I am still able to learn so much about myself.

After all, your twenties are supposed to be the most memorable years of your life. And I need to make up for my teens.

New Year: Make some memories.

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photo.elsoar.com

 I always find December 31st and January 1st particularly odd times of the year– or rather, two years depending on how you look at it. This whole concept of a new year automatically brings with the a guise of hope, that everything will be better once the clock hits midnight. 

A new year, a new you.

It’s kind of like not being able to start a diet on a Wednesday, it has to be a Monday because that’s the beginning of the week– a new week, a new diet. I remember two friends in high school who were always on and off new diets and eating fads, and they just could not (or would not) start a diet on any day other than a Monday. Ironically, this also allowed them plenty of leeway to forget about the new challenge after a few days had passed waiting for Monday to arrive.

Of course, I don’t think it’s a way of generally putting off a new commitment. Personally, I enjoy the tradition. Having a specific date gives people a target and, in many cases, some credibility. There’s always people who want to know– questions “go on, what’s your new year’s resolution?” or “so, made any resolutions?” are commonplace on January 1st. 

I’d go as far too say in many cases they suppress the typical “how are you?”.

Last new years day I didn’t make any resolutions though apparently. I wrote on Facebook that I might make some drunken commitments at midnight– resolutions I mean, not one night stands!– but I don’t seem to have written about anything on here or elsewhere. Maybe I hoped that I would remember? Or maybe I purposely didn’t write them down to I didn’t have the regret on December 31st of not fufilling them.

Instead, I wrote a long, long list of things that I would like to do in 2013. Tasks, rather than resolutions. I called it The “2013: Let’s Do This” List. I ticked off 45 out of 114 tasks on that list– a pretty dismal attempt in all honesty. In fact, a lot of the things I ticked off I’d only put on there in the first place because I was already planning to do each of the things: everything I planned to do in America was essentially already booked and sorted by Christmas, and everything academic was almost certain. Things like watching films, reading books and buying certain things shouldn’t have been too difficult. 

In fact, looking at the list now I should have a much higher percentage ticked off. But I didn’t go through the year watching the list, nor did I put any effort into ticking everything off. I never went out with the aim of completing it all, it was more of a lazy venture.

And yet I’m still slightly disappointed with myself.

I think that’s a big problem with all of this new year malarky– most people will be disappointed come December. But I don’t think it’s because we set our expectations too high, or we’re far too lazy to get anything done. In fact, with the amount (and length) of statuses that I saw on Facebook and Instagram last night I know many people had absolutely fantastic years despite many low points. To be honest, I think it’s because at the end of the day (or should I say year) we are different people.

There is not one single person who can tell you for certain the step by step route that their year is going to take. This time next year you could be married, divorced, seeing someone, pregnant, rich or poor. You could be one of those cringy couples who got engaged on Christmas Day, or you could be celebrating New Year’s Eve in New York City. 

And what about the 364 days in between that?

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book; make it a good one.”

 

So for my 2014? This year I did make some resolutions, of sorts. I made a far sorter list of tasks that I want to complete (which will most likely grow as the year goes on), and I’ve made some resolutions:

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If you plan to do anything this year, plan to make it memorable. Take lots of photos, make new friends, visit new places and try new things. But this time next year, be able to look back on 2014 with a smile.