A problem shared

I like to talk about my problems. To give voice to them. To allow them to exist. To own them. To be honest about them. It lets me feel free. It reminds me that I expand far beyond the bounds of my problems.

I use this as a place to talk about my problems quite a lot because talking about them in conversation with others tends to lead to unwanted consequences. Like bad, unsolicited advice. Or worse, misplaced sympathy. Misplaced sympathy makes me feel physically sick. Don’t feel sorry for me just because I have more self-awareness than you, motherfucker.

I am not complaining about my problems. I am holding space for them. I am honouring them. I love them. They are so interesting, and they teach me so much. I am positively captivated by them, and they are literally my reason for being. Don’t rain on my problem parade.

I love it when other people talk about their problems, too. When they stand and bear witness to their own struggles, without seeking to be shored up or consoled. Just wanting to be heard. I fucking love it. It helps me feel less alone. Less fucked up. More seen. More acceptable.

Maybe, whilst I amuse myself taking stock of my problems here, my words will reach some people who enjoy how they land.

Eighty-fucking-five

I got my master’s thesis grade this week.

I’m normally pretty accurate at ‘marking’ my own work – I can often predict within a few percentage points what my mark will be, and I can usually guess what the feedback will be too.

In this case though, I have legitimately spent four weeks thinking I might in fact FAIL. I’ve done a lot of self-talk around how, if I do fail, it won’t make me a bad person; it won’t doom me to eternal failure; in the grand scheme of things it’s not that important; life will still go on. I’ve done quite a few calculations of various grade scenarios to prepare myself for what the lowest grade would be that would let me retain my distinction, what would permit a merit, and what would happen to my average if I just barely scraped a pass on my thesis. In my most optimistic moments I chanted ‘seventy-three, seventy-three, seventy-three’, because 73%, for some reason, is my comfort benchmark.

I have never in my life been so fucking neurotic about grades. I’ve never had to be. I’ve always trusted myself to deliver academically. I’ve always known that my half-arsed, last-minute, crash-my-bike-and-hitch-hike-to-the-submission-box efforts outpace most people’s very best work. I have always had the luxury of being very arrogant about my academic prowess. I’ve always known that, even though I’ve fucked myself over getting to this point, I haven’t fucked myself over enough that anyone else is going to notice.

But, this time, my brain broke a few months before the project was due.

Usually, if my brain’s going to break, it breaks after the deadline. After three consecutive all-nighters with sustenance derived primarily from energy drinks and pre-cooked quinoa eaten out of the packet. Surrounded by piles of debris, financial peril, and myriad evidence of how all other areas of my life were forsaken in favour of completing my assignment. I break when it’s over. Because I’m good in a crisis.

But this time, there’d been multiple crises dragging on for at least two years already. I’d wanted to quit my master’s back when lockdown first hit because I knew I didn’t have the reserves to see it through in my usual style and would instead have to resort to flogging myself across a scorched, barren landscape to make it to freedom. But I couldn’t bring myself to quit, so flogging it was.

In the last few months, there was a thick layer of transparent sludge between me and my project. Like that jelly they put on you for ultrasounds, but about twenty inches thick. I had to reach through to work on it but I couldn’t really see what I was doing and my arms started aching very quickly. The quality of the end product was anyone’s guess. But it probably wasn’t good.

Now I have been rewarded for the flogged muddling with 85%. Despite months of sleepless nights with a three year old pushing me out of bed. Despite my supervisor leaving two months before the hand in and having to renegotiate my report for new eyes. Despite needing to complete another module left over from last year alongside. Despite all the reasons that it only made sense that my grade should suffer, I got 85%. The first adjective used in my supervisor’s feedback was ‘exceptional’.

This wasn’t what the story was supposed to be. This was supposed to be a cautionary tale. That pushing myself past breaking point could not yield success. That sacrificing myself for the grade would not only lead to misery, but also underachievement. That I had to find a better way.

I’m actually not sure what to do with eighty-fucking-five. Don’t get me wrong; I did fucking earn it, more than I’ve probably earned any other grade. And, yeah, I’m probably capable of ninety-five with a gentle tailwind, so I can still be dissatisfied with my performance if I want. But what exactly is the lesson here?

Learn to take a win, Yve?

Stationary Direct

I handed in the work for my masters just before my birthday last month, as my derailed subway car skidded through the station with a deafening screeching, and sparks flew all around.

Then it was a case of waiting for the thing to come to a stop so I could disembark. Up to that point I’d thought the deadline was the destination, but I should have known a runaway train with that much momentum was going to overshoot the mark by some considerable margin. I think I’ve ground to a halt now but my body still has the sensation of moving, so I’m yet to clamber free.

I don’t know what comes next. My house is still a mess and I have no onward plans. I am back in the nebula, waiting for something to form. It’s hard not to wonder if this whole thing was just a £10,000 diversion. Okay, more like £14,000. I guess we’ll see in time.

Much Horse

Today is my ex-horse’s birthday.

He’s still a horse. I think. He’s just not my horse anymore.

Although technically I wonder about that because he might still officially be on long-term loan, seeing as his new owner never paid me the agreed upon fee following the trial period. Pregnant, weak-spirited and with nowhere to keep a horse, I just let her have a free horse. But maybe she still thinks she’s just borrowing him five years later?

He’s 11 today. Prime of his life. I bet he’s magnificent.

I’ve been thinking about horses a lot lately. I actually dreamt about thinking about buying a horse last night, and I only just remembered. Horses have taken so much of my money over the years, and transformed it into joy and peace and liberation. The presence of a horse-shaped hole in my future bank account seems inevitable, but it’s not quite time just yet.

Manifesting cars

The car I own is a dark grey 2009 Volvo C30 1.6 DRIVe. I don’t know if that’s a confession or a weird flex.

I like cars. I know fuck all about them if we’re being candid, but what I lack in knowledge I make up for in enthusiasm based upon, frankly, arbitrary points of interest.

Part of the reason I know I like cars is that some of them kind of turn me on a bit. Not quite to this extent, I hasten to add. But appealing aesthetics are a…driving factor. If a car catches my eye, I then take it upon myself to research it with a heavy confirmation bias, to find out all the other reasons I like it.

As far as aspirational cars go, a C30 isn’t exactly top of my list these days. When I bought my C30 I was lusting after a Toyota C-HR hybrid. That’s since been replaced in my fantasies by a Polestar 2.

BUT, when the C30 came out, back when I was 16, every time I spotted one it was a cheap thrill. Even now, the lines of that era of Volvo make my pupils dilate. Seeing Robert Pattinson driving my favourite car in Twilight may well have been the spark that ignited a passionate crush I stand by to this day, because Robert Pattinson is spectacular. I’ve written him two fan letters. But I digress.

Edward Cullen’s C30 inspired me to head to the Volvo website to design my own. Colour? No question, dark grey was my favourite colour for anything. Engine? I had no fucking clue of the implications…but I liked the environment so, naturally, I chose the ‘eco’ option – the 1.6 DRIVe. The year was 2009.

Did you ever hear Noel Edmunds going on about cosmic ordering? I did, around about that time. From what I remember it’s a basic Law of Attraction type concept. You just had to make your wish, and wait for it to be granted. There was this website where you could type in your ‘order’, and when you submitted it, it added a virtual star to a virtual sky. I enjoyed that idea. It’s quite likely a C30 made it into my virtual sky, although I can’t corroborate the claim.

When it came to buying a car this time around, I was having difficulty. It had been a minute since I was last in the market, and my affiliation with diesel was now frowned upon. And my budget wasn’t exactly expansive. At first, I’d been excited to buy a sexy high-miles Volvo diesel estate. Which is a preposterous statement if ever I wrote one. But my son’s dad sucked all the fun out of it with his talk of air pollution. So then I looked at all the reasonable petrol alternatives, and none of them aroused me at all. I went round and round in circles trying to land on an acceptable compromise, until I didn’t want a car anymore.

But I needed a car.

I was so tired of car shopping, I wished I could just have a car delivered to my door and not have to think about it anymore. Dejected, I made a deal with the Universe – either deliver me a car that I can be really excited about owning this weekend, or I’ll cave and buy a Honda Jazz or something, just to be done with it.

Enter The C30. The exact car my 19 year old self had ‘ordered’. Low enough emissions that I could live with indulging my guilty diesel pleasure for one last hurrah. Nearly 140,000 miles on the clock so it felt worldly (I’m not kidding that was a selling point for me). Delivered to my fucking door.

Why do I tell this story? Because it emerged into my consciousness as I was taking a walk today. And it was such a peculiar culmination of disparate threads, a bunch of which I haven’t even mentioned, that it invokes a healthy questioning of reality. And I want to make sure I remember it.