Last Friday I had my photo taken. Considering that my body was insisting that I should crawl into bed – two hours before, I’d collapsed in the middle of the office corridor – the photo doesn’t look too bad. It’s professionally taken. The angles are good. Yes my eyes are typically asymmetrical, but that’s because I’m made that way and is no failing of the photographer.
Imperfection in my features isn’t a problem. What is, is that my picture looks like a school photo, minus the tie. I write about some serious grown-up topics at work. Often whilst sat at my desk with my legs tucked up beneath me (because I’m bad), typing with one hand whilst the other cradles my Hello Kitty mug. Last week I caught myself sucking my thumb – which just goes to show how tired I was.
It’s not a complaint that I look so young, just an observation.
I came across an article today, written about young woman who has better electronics skills than I do. It worries me how long it took me to accept the story. The picture didn’t match my understandng of a genius physicist, it was of a girl.
[The original article I read wasn’t this article, and only had a photo of Eesha Khare, but I’ve lost it to the internet.]
I’m five years older than the woman in question. I’ve earnt my physics degree. I even surpassed the expectations of both my electronics professor and myself by getting a high first in his module. Yet, despite this, on first impression of Eesha Khare my brain couldn’t process her identity as the inventor of a super capacitor.
Just like my brain rejects the idea that I can understand electronics. I state that I can do electronics like it’s a joke. It’s that same feeling as I have to my current photo, me, 23 looking 13, isn’t suitable for association with the serious grown-up work I’m doing.
I’m guessing that my body’s moment of not working on Friday was stress related. I’m assuming, yes blindly, that my whole medical dilemma is stress triggered. You can call it a hypothesis.
Such moments happen when I’m internally exhausted. I’d slept for an average of 9 hours each night for the week preceding the embarrassment and on Saturday night I had just under 14 hours.
But what could be stressing me? There’s leaving the Hovel and moving house, but why would I worry about that? I’m moving in with the boyfriend, but I like him and he can do the washing-up. We’re going to have some issues, mostly regarding music and the radio (he abhors silence), but I’m sure he’ll learn to appreciate music all the more for having less of it.
Maybe it’s the inevitable point in my contract at work where suggestions of a new contract are implied and a discussion date is set, 4th June. I originally applied and took the job because I decided that I needed to get a job. Some thought went into it. The role isn’t physics, it allows me to learn to write better and it was in the right place. Why they chose me I’m not sure.
To my shock, I found I actually rather like the company. I like the people I work with. I like the work.
But, and there’s always a but, is staying settling? Is settling necessarily bad?
If I looked elsewhere where would I look?
The actionable list
Lists are great things. I ask a question to myself. What would I do if I had no limitation of resource.
In no particular order…
1. I’d write stories. I’d start with my Ancient Egyptian novel and work on it until I was happy. People can say let go, but if I had no limitations I’d keep it until I wanted to let go. I’d tinker away and I’d play.
2. I’d study quantum mechanics. I know this sounds crazy, and probably most crazy of all to myself, but I love quantum mechanics. In my degree studying it always was rather rushed, but there’s something in the way it fits together that is truly magical.
3. I’d travel. I’d walk up small mountains and trek through forests. I’d sit and eat ice-cream with the elderly in the sunshine whilst watching children play across the square. I’d test myself. Go places my imagination is to tame to dream of.
4. I’d paint. For hours. In the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning and allow myself to be absorbed in what I was creating without worrying that I ought to be doing something more productive.
5. I’d have a moonshot*. A crazy idea to pursue with all likelihood of failure but the faintest glimmer of possibility.
6. I’d have amazing parties for all the people I love – cocktails and barbecues in the great British summer, sledge rides and northern light hunting in the depths of the Norwegian winter with a Christmas turkey and lots of cranberry sauce.
7. I’d do stuff to help people. I’d give my time, I’d find people I could help by applying my brain to their problems. I’d go out of my way to make people’s faces light up with wonder.
It’s irresponsible to cause alarm from the floor in the middle of the office corridor. It’s not dignified. My life needs a better routine. I need a more normal sleep pattern that leaves me with time in the day where I have energy, but I’m not at work.
I’m not sure how to go about this.
Is the underlying stress just this introspective wondering about my future and my self-worth?
What am I truly chasing? Am I open to a future filled with possibilities, or is it that I’m too scared to close some down in order to move forward? I can’t ghost write my life. That girl staring back at me in the photograph might look young and naïve, but she is me. The authentic, real me who is clever. She can write about complex serious topics, she does understand enough physics that she earnt a degree in the subject and she’s more than adequately skilled with a soldering iron.
Why is that so damn difficult to accept?
*Moonshots are what Google calls its really crazy long-term, high-impact projects.