#TheReadingQuest Sign Up

With under an hour left before sign up closes for the magical Reading Quest created by @ReadAtMidnight and illustrated by CW of ReadThinkPonder I decided this is perfect for my first ever participation in an online reading challenge!

Take a moment to investigate the game play, rules and rewards in full here: TheReadingQuest

Having discovered this only moments ago, I am wildly attempting to throw together a quick post that will get me across the deadline.

I have chosen the path of the Rogue!

rogue1

 

I will be leaving the side quests unplanned. As a Rogue, I do indeed have some hidden gems in my TBR, should I manage to squeeze extra reading time into my schedule.

I began with 20 books from varying positions in my TBR list of 178 *correct when written at 14.00 August 13th (a date also noted as 374 days prior to the dawn of my 30’s)

I have painstakingly whittled these down to 8 titles, some of which could serve as more than one tile option, we’ll see how it goes shall we?

I am still open to recommendations on my path to reading a ‘small press’ book should anybody have some for me? My usual go-to’s include SciFi, Dystopia, YA, Thriller, Horror or a classic. However for the sake of challenge, I would willingly consider any fictional recommendation!

Hit me in the comments or on Twitter.

For now I must race through the remaining 55% of my current read- Fellside by M.R.Carey so that I can join the party! Late. As Always.

Intro: Let’s do an experiment…

I suppose without context this blog might only appeal to me, which is fine, but then if I wanted to be the only person to understand it why would I do it online? Anonymity is useful for discouraging bias, but I personally find it a struggle to connect with an entirely unknown source. So I’ll provide a little background about An Average Life, whether or not to my detriment you decide.

Lets do an experiment.

Read slowly, think fast.

 

I came into the world in 1988. Now fast approaching 30 years of age. 

Picture me in day to day life for a moment.

What assumptions did you just make?

Supposing an answer you manufactured was about my current relationship status. Am I married? No. I am divorced actually. Does that surprise you?  I guess maybe not, depending on your culture and geographical location. Did you read the word ‘divorced’ and presume I’m single and unhappy?

I have a wonderful home, a loving partner and one dependant.

Picture that

What does that tell you? Do I rent or own my home? Is it a mansion or a tent? My mind conjures flowers and cottages whenever people describe their home as ‘wonderful’. Is my partner male or female? What do I mean by dependant?

I bought my three bedroom terrace house in 2013. With a mortgage of course, this is ‘An Average Life’ after all. My boyfriend and I have a cocker spaniel puppy and our garden grows an impressive variety of flora every year considering we never plant nor water them.

I wonder now, how many correct conclusions you drew before and after each fact? Are you stereo-typing against your will? Whether you consciously chose to assign characteristics to me or not, your mind will do it if you close your eyes and imagine.

Here’s one I’d struggle to guess at this point, what is my occupation? Do I even have one? Having read what I’ve written so far, what would you assume?

Pick three career paths for me.

Did you guess? I am a retail fashion manager for a world renowned LTD company. Of course, I won’t tell you which company. How could I investigate employee breach of social media policies if I’m prone to them myself? So no, I will not divulge that information. I will ask though, does the phrase ‘world renowned’ connote a positive opinion to you? Would you have less trust in my writing if that was an unjustified implication, even though you’d formed it yourself?

Did my vocabulary tip you off that I am English yet? Or did you acknowledge my username at the beginning to ascertain I am a female in the United KingdomWestcountry by the way.

You know my name but you have no idea of my race or religion. Had you presumed one for me yet? Will you do so now that I’ve mentioned it?

Who am I?

Which of these facts, if any, do you find necessary for you to identify with another’s writing? Would you have stopped reading earlier if I was a stay-at-home parent, a successful business owner, an unemployed flat-sharing artist or a grandmother in retirement housing?

Perhaps you formed a few perceptions between the italics, don’t forget though, that would only be your own suppositions. Suppositions that could also teach us about our own current mindsets

With a non-specific blog such as this I give myself complete freedom of content and massive scope for judgement or misinterpretation of its purpose. Such is the internet.

So this is me, this is mine, I’m happy to share, do what you will with it.

Mind Mess: My Fight With Perfectionism

I used to be someone that scoffed at the words ‘depression’ or ‘stress’, in my opinion a person should just pull themselves together and forge on. I thought my father used depression as an excuse and my colleagues were just being lazy when they were signed off with stress.

So karma bit my ass and handed me a mental illness of my own.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I was diagnosed over three years ago. Medication allows me to control it most of the time but there is no ‘forging on’ when it doesn’t.

I battle with my own mind on varying scales every day, I’ve dug down into my psyche in attempts to rid myself of this illness over and over again to no avail. I tell myself the silver lining of my big, black cloud is that it has made me more compassionate. I have a much better understanding of those coping with mental illnesses and I am ashamed of my previous stoic attitude.

What frustrates me is I am able to identify the events, people and choices that caused me to think this way. I know the hows the whys and the whens. There’s no underlying issue or past trauma that I haven’t already pinpointed and dealt with, there will be no sudden revelation that releases me from the vice.

I have to reprogram my brain, change my own thoughts and perception of myself. But just as it was a long, slow sink into my current state, it’ll be a long, slow climb to get back out. There are two halves of me, the half that is rational and the half that is not.

-I have so much to do at work today and I must finish it all or I am not good enough // I have set myself unachievable targets and my best effort is enough.

-My house is an absolute hovel, I need to clean every inch, starting with the paw print on this wardrobe mirror // Just clean the mirror and relax, the house is not dirty and nobody else ever thinks it is.

-My writing is terrible and boring, nobody will enjoy reading it// I write for my own enjoyment so it shouldn’t matter what others might think.

I’ve heard and read the mantras- My best is good enough, I don’t have to do everything myself, Nobody is perfect. I know these things but they don’t stop me from pushing my body to its limits; working til every muscle aches, cleaning til I fall asleep in a laundry pile, hitting total exhaustion several times a year.

The only person telling me I’m not good enough is me.

But how do I shut me up?

Lit: My literary life timeline 1993-2013

Everyone has their own list of literature they’ve read that stayed with them for a multitude of different reasons. I’ve rooted around my memories and compiled my own. I limited myself to a maximum  of one per year so this is by no means exhaustive!

1993 (5yo): Biff, Chip & Kipper series- The Apple- Roderick Hunt is the first book I remember reading out loud whilst first learning as a child.

1994 (6yo): George’s Marvellous Medicine- Roald Dahl I was so proud of myself for pronouncing and understanding the humungerous words. ‘Gobblefunk’ (the language Dahl invented) fascinated me, though not so much my mother when I began using it colloquially.

1995 (7yo): The Twits- Roald Dahl after spending one entire Sunday morning typing out almost half of this story word-for-word on our nice new 3gb desktop computer, my parents decided to explain the term ‘plagarism’ to me. They had very much enjoyed the several hours of peace my little project had allowed them but in fact this was already someone elses work.

1996 (8yo): Watership Down- Richard Adams the first book i brought to school for ‘silent reading hour’. I wonder if that’s still a weekly classroom activity.

1997 (9yo): Bill’s New Frock – Anne Finne alarmingly, on finishing this story about a boy who wakes up one day to find everyone thinks he is a girl, our teacher asked the class if anyone felt they would prefer to have been born the opposite gender. My tomboy friend immediately raised her hand, only to have that moment never be forgotten and affect the rest of her school life.

1998 (10 yo): Goosebumps- Piano Lessons Can Be Murder- R.L. Stine thus began my first book collection.

1999 (11yo): Beowulf- Robert Nye My own creative writing description of a fight between Beowulf and Grendel came top of the class. Also the moment I discovered I’d been prounouncing ‘anxiety’ incorrectly!

2000 (12yo): To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee Material for my first English essay, and my first real introduction to the meaning of racism.

2002 (14yo): The Jogger- Roger McGough Being only familiar with his works for children I was horrified after reading this poem. Even now I can’t find the words to fully convey my emotional response to it.

2004 (15yo): An Inspector Calls- J.B.Priestley I still love this play now. An oral assessment of it made up 20% of my final A grade English GCSE. It also inspired the original idea behind my first novel (currently a WIP).

2005 (17yo): IT- Stephen King my longest read until that point and, I expect, a permanent installation in my top ten favourite books.

2006 (still 17yo): Song Of Susannah- The Dark Tower Series-Stephen King I cried. 

2007 (18yo): Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows standing in line at the midnight release, trying to block out the various shouts of “Harry dies” and “They all die” or “Nobody dies”, from people leaving the store with their books held open at the final page.

2011 (23yrs): Dracula- Bram Stoker my first ebook. Downloaded onto the kindle paper view from the free -book section.

2013 (25yrs): Mad About The Boy – Bridget Jones Diaries-Helen Fielding exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Including my own hilarious memory made whilst reading it during a commute to London.

 

Special mentions

Because I didn’t want to expand but I just can’t help myself:

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Intensity – Dean Koontz

Irene/Alex/Camille – Pierre Lemaitre

The Wind In The Willows- Kenneth Grahame

 

Anyone who would like to ping back and write their own literary timeline please do. I’d be very interested to see any similarities, especially in school syllabus materials.

Thank you for reading. Feedback always welcomed.

Mind Mess: Learning to let someone else care for you.

My whole life I’ve cared for other people. I’m not saying that’s uncommon, millions of others do the same every day, all of us for different reasons but all with the same result. Losing yourself.

At the age of seven I was grilling frozen pizzas to feed my younger brother lunch. I quite easily could’ve nagged my father into waking up and getting us something to eat. Instead I chose to provide it myself. I’d pad bare footed out to the freezer in our shed, haul myself up the side of the chest freezer so I coud reach the bottom and grab pizzas or potato waffles. I taught myself how to cook them by reading the instructions on the back of the boxes and decided grilling was less scary than the oven. I’d be less likely to burn myself with the grill. My brother has a small brain defect and so I’ve been caring for him in various amounts til this day. Whether it’s explaining adult responsibilities to him over a monthly phone call now or trying to cook him lunch every saturday in 1995.

At sixteen I incorporated myself into a new family as their sons live-in girlfriend; The father was always away with the Royal Marines and mostly lived on camp, the mother worked 72 hours a week because that was all she cared about, the much older brother was a recluse living at his computer and the younger sister was never home. As a result, there was never anything to eat, the house was a constant mess, the dog was never walked and my boyfriend and his sister never attended school.

I could walk away from that easily. But instead I made them go to school, cooked dinner several times a week (with food I paid for with part-time wages) and helped with the laundry. I even got between the parents when I woke up over hearing a particularly vicious argument and stayed til they were calm and wouldn’t wake their own kids. The enfollowing thirteen year relationship wasn’t any different.

At twenty-eight I have taken in my seventh lodger. Only the fourth out of the seven I’ve charged any rent. The first I took in so he had somewhere to live in his home town so he could find a job and save enough money to start out. The second I took in when his mother suddenly moved away. The third was that someone’s annoying girlfriend, who I let stay for months even after they’d broken up. The fourth had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and needed somewhere to live cheap and save til it was born. The fifth and sixth needed to save a deposit on their own place and escape the one they were living in. The seventh is partly for me to have some company and extra income, and partly for her to learn how to live almost independantly.

The eighth is the one that breaks the chain I’ve been living in. The eighth person I choose to live with is purely for my own happiness. ‘My own happiness’ being a phrase that potrays selfishness.

Love, real all-consuming, nerve tingling love, for me, is the process of someone teaching you how to be happy. Continuously happy, with yourself, your life and your choices. Whether you ever find complete contentment in life is irrelevant. It’s the feeling of making progress towards it together, the tiny realisations along the way that make your own outlook on life a little brighter.

Number eight teaches me how to be happy in all the ways. The only negativity I encounter comes from my own mind distorting my happiness into a feeling of selfishness. I haven’t learned how to drown that voice out for myself yet, but Jacob quiets it for me. It’s nice to be the one taken care of.

Mind Mess: What is common/general knowledge?

I found myself lacking in a few areas this month, which prompted me to try and confirm what material comes under the vast umbrella of the common knowledge category.

For example; I recently passed my driving test, at no point during any of my lessons did I learn how to fill my petrol tank. It isn’t a requirement for an instructor to teach you this neccessity, and to be honest I didn’t even think to ask.

Fast-forward two weeks. I’ve purchased a car, I’m at the petrol station and I realise- I’ve never done this before. I have a basic understanding, I’ve seen people use petrol pumps enough times. But, I’ve also seen and heard many people joking about watching others struggle to ‘get their own petrol cap off’ or having to ‘help this daft woman fill her own car’. (I did spend a summer working in a petrol station. You might be suprised by the amount of times we had to help push a diesel car out of the forecourt because it’s owner had filled the tank with petrol mistakenly.)

You are just sort of expected to know how to perform this task, but why?

Heres another; My boiler has broken. The plumber is asking me if I have a combi boiler, as if it’s a simple question. I have no idea? Now I feel silly. I own my house, surely I should know what type of boiler I have? When he arrives the plumber is surprised to find I have a combi-boiler and I have my immersion heater switched on. Unbeknownst to me I have been using gas to heat water at the moment it is required using the combi, as well as using gas to maintain an entire separate tank of hot water throughout set periods of the day. Thats an expensive mistake. I only need to switch the immersion on if my combi-boiler isn’t working. How else would I know that? It’s not like buying a house came with a welcome pack of ‘how things work’!

I’ve known people who weren’t aware that goosebumps can occur because your body is cold, or whether you can safely defrost bacon in a microwave, even how to write a letter.

So I ask, what is common knowledge? Who decides what fits under the proverbial umbrella? And why does anyone find it acceptable to poke fun at something another person has not yet learned.

Lit: The books I abandoned

When do you give up on a book?

For me the answer always used to be ‘never’. I can’t recall an exact moment, but over the years I accepted as fact that I could not possibly start reading a new book before finishing my current one. Yet some people have several on the go at once!

On many occasions I tried, but I could never fully immerse myself in a new read. My mind would wander to incomplete plot lines or wonder how the characters fared in an unfinished novel.

can recall the moment this spell broke, and the three books that followed it.

Spring 2016, after slogging through a meagre 26% of The Zoo- Jamie Mollart I finally gave myself permission to give up on a book.

Not long after We- Yevgeny Zamyatin followed suit at 32%, and finally last month We Need To Talk About Kevin- Lionel Shriver took a dive into my do-not-finish pile.

With a TBR of 100 or more there just isn’t time to invest in anything that doesn’t grip you.

Anyone else have books gathering dust?

Defining Moment: Ask A Stupid Question

It might change you.

Have you ever been the person in the room digging deep for the courage to ask a question? One you know you will feel stupid for asking but having no other choice.

I have a crystal clear memory of one of these moments, it should have been forgettable and insignificant but instead a five minute ordeal seems to have greatly contributed to my personality.

I’m standing in the office at my previous workplace, it’s open plan with work stations along each wall and a large desk in the centre for the store manager. It’s always slightly hushed in here because several different departments share the space. There are receptionists on the phones or signing visitors in at the window, different levels of management flit in and out constantly and occasionally a floor level employee will hover nervously in wait for who knows what.

I have recently been promoted, I am now on the first step of the management ladder and my superior has sent me in to copy some documents. Now here’s my dilemma. I don’t know how to work the photocopier.

SIMPLE? Right? Actually no. Not for me. At 21 years old I have never had cause to use a photocopier. I understand the concept, put the documents in the tray, push the green button and the copies come out the other side. But I need to select the amount of copies, the paper dimensions, content enlargement, and I saw a girl last week get her copies all jammed up. Every person in here uses this machine every day with ease, who can I ask that isn’t going to laugh at me? They’ll have to be soft-spoken, if I ask the wrong person the whole office is going to over hear, then they’ll all know what a fool I am. The store manager is right next to the copy machine, there are five other senior managers nearby as well as the gossipy administration team and a handful of sales floor employees. 

I made the wrong choice.  Easy to do when you’re in a store full of colleagues vying for the same promotional opportunities. I asked help from a girl of my own age and management level, we’d been working together a few years by then. She laughed loudly and talked me very slowly through my task with a false bubbly tone as if I were a child tying my shoe laces.

In my mind I thank this girl. Those few moments whilst all the workers stared at me, my face burning as I silently admonished myself, stuck with me. Its irrelevant but needs to be said that I moved on to bigger and better things.

The point is I make certain to ensure no-one ever feels any sort of negativity when approaching me for help. If you ask anyone who presently or previously worked with me for a summary of my management style the same words always surface. Approachable. Understanding. Fair.

As far as I know the girl of my story bolted up the management ladder at that particular company, only to be made redundant in a series of budget cuts during the supermarket price wars a few years back.

The smallest events can have the largest impact.

I’d be interested to hear some of yours…