The C Word: How Soon Is Too Soon?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

At work today, a customer commented on how refreshing it was for a shop to be playing non-Christmas music. Bah Humbug? Maybe, but, as you’ve probably heard countless times this week – ‘it’s not even December yet.’

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Sure enough, the last couple of weeks have seen the transformation of Halloween’s black and orange into the red and green of the festive season; there have been switch ons, Christmas adverts-a-plenty, and in York – we even have carollers! Oh AND the Christmas TV listings were released today.

It’s exactly one month until the big day. Is it still too soon to be getting into the festive spirit? As far as the adverts go, I was distinctly underwhelmed by John Lewis’ Monty (much to some people’s disappointment) and I remain fairly ambivalent about Sainsbury’s trench warfare (the worst thing that can happen for WWI is for it to be made beautiful.) Nonetheless, it makes sense that they’d rear their heads as soon as Halloween was over, but there are some festivities that I say are a no-no before December:

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  • Buying Christmas trees – They have been growing all their lives for this, at least let them have their final few weeks to live pre-Christmas life to the full!
  • Singing Christmas Carols – Just don’t. There are 25 whole days for Ding-Dong Merrily on High.
  • Christmas Jumpers – Considering the amount of times they are relevant in December, why overdo it in any other month? Silly.

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Aaaand the things that are fine RIGHT NOW:

  • Watching Love Actually – obviously.
  • Christmas Scents – Smelling Christmas is definitely less offensive than seeing it or hearing it. However, I feel a line needs to be drawn at ‘Winter Spice’ toilet cleaner…
  • Mulled Wine – never too soon.
  • Festive foods – Gregg’s festive bake. Say no more.

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What are your thoughts?

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Can’t Start, Won’t Start: My Thoughts on Procrastination

My name is Charlotte and I am a procrastinator.

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It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been thinking about writing one for a while, but like many other aspects of my life, I’ve been putting it off. This morning, I had a meeting with my dissertation supervisor and she asked me to do that which I fear the most: ‘tell me about your working day.’ Even my answer wasn’t to the point. Anyway, I’ve had a sudden surge of inspiration. Over the next few weeks, I will transform myself into a super organised, high-functioning, list-making, opera-researching individual.

But first, a bit of background…

I have recently found myself faced with sudden, unbridled personal freedom. My current goals are few, but include the following:

  1. Part time job: make enough money to eat.
  2. Write 40,000 words by September 2014 (Or Jan 2015, if you really want.)

So whilst the time for research is limited, why do I find myself sat in the library (yes, the library – step one complete), with the words of Foucault’s History of Madness blurring into the abyss. I’m supposed to be reading about insane people, but my inability to complete any task is turning me into my subject. Although, there is a small part of me feels that there is some justification in putting off writing my dissertation, because surely if I wait, I will be older, and therefore wiser, and therefore more capable of writing it… No?

Even this article is a product of procrastination (Oh! The Irony.)

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I’ve been trawling Google for the solution to my procrastination woes, and the results have been overwhelming. Amusingly, it turns out that we humans have been putting things off since the beginning of time, and the puritans called it ‘the sin of folly.’ Most importantly though, I have found that many like me use the same methods and the same catch phrases, and as such, I include a brief jargon-buster for those of your who are unfamiliar with the art of procrastination:

Procrastinator: ‘I thrive under pressure.’

Translation: ‘I am not organised enough to compete tasks before the very last minute, but I still manage to muddle through.’

Procrastinator: ‘I’ll consult my to-do list.’

Translation: ‘I’ll consult my “every single menial and inconsequential task I think of in order not to face my real responsibilities” list.

Procrastinator: ‘I can’t cope’

Translation: ‘I don’t want to face it.’

Don’t be fooled, procrastination is not defined by an absence of intention – I intend to do lots of things. I just put them off. Also, it’s not fun. You don’t get that semi-euphoric, ‘I’m such a badass’ feeling of skipping a lesson at school, or purposely forgetting a boring meeting. Instead, many fellow procrastinators will be familiar with the ever-growing feeling of pressure, and of course, the dreaded mid-night angst. You know, when you wake up in the night and everything you should do, but can’t/won’t do, seems 100% more important, your inability to do it is magnified tenfold, and the impossibility of it all becomes just too much.

Why then, is procrastination such a common phenomenon? If procrastination causes us distress and discomfort, why do we do it? Personally, when I continually put off a task, it’s because deep down, I am overwhelmed by its magnitude. A quick search on Amazon brings up hundreds of self-help books on how to beat it, but perhaps this isn’t the best way. I’m beginning to wonder whether, with a little tweaking, we can use procrastination to our advantage.


There are a couple of scientists who make a distinction between ‘passive procrastinators’ and ‘structured procrastinators.’ My goal – become the latter.

This guy sums its up:

‘Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.’

– Robert Benchley

Basically, whether you’re a garden-variety dilly dallier, or if ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ is your personal anthem, structured procrastination converts us all into effective human beings: revered and admired for all we can accomplish!

For example, if I have to read an article for my research, but instead want to watch Vampire Diaries (don’t judge, its my guilty pleasure), from now on I will do neither. Instead, maybe I will clean the kitchen, check my emails, pay bills etc. All of these seemingly menial tasks will take pride of place on my mental to-do list, alongside the all-encompassing ‘write 40, 000 words’, which, under the new regime, will read: ‘think about a lit review for the first chapter’, thus diminishing its significance. Before long, I think the very fact that i have to clean the kitchen (due to its place on the list), will render me unable to do it, and I will resort to the lit review.

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So basically, as structured protagonists, we recognise and commit ourselves to tasks with inflated importance and unreal deadlines, but in making ourselves feel that they are important and urgent, we resort to carrying out the really important stuff. (Shhhh.)

Yes, yes…the nit-pickers amongst you may feel that structured procrastination requires a certain amount of self-deception. But that’s the point: virtually all procrastinators have excellent self-deceptive skills. What could be more noble than using one character flaw to offset the bad effects of another?

In addition, my new life as a structured procrastinator will foster intellectual creativity – instead of worrying that I am procrastinating, my time can be better spent pondering life’s essential and age-old questions. Ooh, also, as a structured procrastinator, I will be very self-aware. As such, I will not just despair at my inability to do something; I will question why I’m putting it off – thus uncovering its true value. Wow.

Now, I think I deserve a break…

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Just Faking It: Imposter Syndrome and the Capable Mind

It has been a week of many inductions. I begun my MA at York University, and as a research student, I’m not one of the normal masters students, and I’m certainly not a PhD student. I think I’m one of a very small handful who decide to do their MA by research, and for this reason, I’ve been suffering from imposter syndrome.

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For those of you who aren’t familiar, imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon whereby the individual is unable to recognize, or rather, internalise their own accomplishments. So, this next part is going to make me sound like a big-headed lunatic, but just as an example…I KNOW that my intellect deems me worthy of a place here, I KNOW that my research is of some value and will continue to stimulate me academically for twelve months, and I KNOW I am capable of writing 40, 000 words. I love words! However, there seems to be no escaping that feeling that everyone around me is somehow more put together, capable of forming superior ideas, and most significantly– better at articulating them. I feel like a fraud, and that’s imposter syndrome.

From what I can tell, impostor syndrome is fairly common amongst post-graduate students, but I don’t think its exclusive to academics. I, for one, have felt its cold clutches from juncture to juncture, and I know I’m not alone.

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Throughout our childhood and teenage years, objective measures of success give us the opportunity to prove ourselves time and time again. Be it GCSE grades, the gold medal on sports day, or the all-encompassing degree classification, we are constantly told what is good. We are informed of our successes, usually on a piece of paper, but much of the time, we move onto the next milestone without taking a moment to take in our achievements.

But what happens when we grow up? There are very few tests in adult life – well, not the kind that you want to take – and when we do face them, more often than not, they fall into one of two categories:

  1. They are not skill-based – therefore there is no failing. For example, pregnancy tests, blood pressure tests, etc.
  1. Eventual success is both expected and conventional – therefore we take it for granted. I’m talking about things like driving tests, the practice run for birthday cake you promised to make, or even a good reference from a former boss for a new job.

Either way, we usually ignore or scrutinise our accomplishments, question their authenticity, and wonder if we deserve to be in the places they take us. Most commonly, we constantly compare ourselves – negatively – to others; without taking a moment to consider our own conquests.

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I’ve met a lot of people in the last few days, but only one out-and-proud fellow impostor syndrome sufferer. I think most people just don’t want to talk about it for fear of being found out.

The moral of the story? Stop feeling like a fraud and learn to enjoy your accomplishments.

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Let’s Hear It For Autumn!

Today’s Google doodle heralds the beginning of Autumn.

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The autumn equinox – or ‘equal night’ – means that for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, today, our day and night will be of equal length. Satisfying.

Down in the Southern Hemisphere, they will be experiencing the first day of spring, and whilst Antarctic residents celebrate the first appearance of the sun in six long months, those at the North Pole brace themselves for 26 weeks of darkness.

But I should know better than to try and explain the tilt of the earth’s axis. The point is, yesterday’s was the first morning that made me think ‘winter is coming’ (casual GoT reference). I took the dog for a walk, saw my breath in the air and made the call: today is a coat day. I loved it.

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My excitement for the autumn and winter months is perhaps not shared by many, but for those of you pining for a final summers day, I suggest the following: open your windows, get cosy, and cast your diets aside…summer is over! That’s right, no more leg-shaving, self-tanning, skimpy clothing frenzies. No more humidity to damage our hair and make our clothing stick to our flesh. No more writhing in bed because you just can’t get comfy in the heat. And NO MORE SALAD! That’s right, ‘tis the season for all things pumpkin flavoured.

Also, not something I rejoice in personally, but football season? That happens now doesn’t it?


For weeks here in the UK, we’ve been inundated with ‘back to school’ advertisements. Uniforms, stationary, lunch boxes, etc. It’s the stuff I used to get really excited about when I was little. This week I accepted an, albeit very last minute, place at York University to study for my Masters, and my Dad’s first comment? ‘I suppose you’ll be needing a new pencil case then?’

No matter how far we are from our school days, autumn retains an air of new beginnings. For my family, this autumn is particularly exciting. We’re anticipating two births, an 80th birthday, and for myself, the move to a new town.

So, as old leaves fall from the trees, we’re faced with the figurative opportunity to turn over new ones. Perhaps September, not January, should be the time for resolutions.

Here are mine:

  1. Know more about current affairs.
  2. Tell new jokes.
  3. Stop worrying.

So, whether you relish the falling leaves or struggle to wave goodbye to the sun, Autumn is here – enjoy it!

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The Rise of the Facebook Cull

We live in an age where we ‘remember’ our friends’ birthdays because they pop up on Facebook; where we know our old classmates are married because we see the photos in instagram; and what we have in common with our potential suitors is measured by our shared likes on Tinder.

So, considering the general conception that social media has revolutionised communication – and by association, the way we create and uphold relationships – why is it so hard to have a valuable conversation, let alone identify an authentic friendship?

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I remember being told as a child that you can never have too many friends. Wrong. With the rise of social media, ‘friendship’ has become a problem.

I have 619 Facebook friends. Not a staggering number in comparison to many: my nephew, Luke, has 2045. The majority of my friends were acquired through education and travel – both of which are transitory. You move, you meet people, you move on. Social media, in many ways, is about making and maintaining connections. But to be honest, maintaining so many friendships can become an exhausting burden.

It’s been suggested that in reality, humans are only capable of sustaining around 150 active friendships at a given time, but nonetheless, many of us have thousands of so-called ‘friends’ on sites like Facebook. But, despite the advances made in technology and communication methods – it would seem that our mental capacities remain somewhat the same. You CAN have too many friends.


To this end, I like to perform an annual Facebook friend cull, in many ways, to validate my ‘real’ friendships, but also just to stop me from going insane. I’m not suggesting that anyone should minimise their list to 150 of their closest friends and family – but sometimes, a little fat-trimming makes it easier to identify those who really deserve your time and affection. Plus, there are only so many candy-crush requests I can take.

So, if you think a cull is the thing for you, here’s my method. Use it wisely.

  • Step one is simple. Seek out a distinctive memory of each person. This will establish whether or not they are worth further consideration.
  • Next, ask yourself this: ‘Would I say hello to you in the street?’ No? Delete.

Although I probably still have a lot of unsubstantiated virtual friendships at this stage, this initial phase provides an excellent start and gets the ball rolling. However, there’s bound to be a few people you just can’t decide on. Next, carry out an assessment of the given ‘friend’s’ Facebook personality. Usually three strikes are given for incessantly annoying people – who will be terminated even outside of a cull session. However, when deciding whether to make the chop on a particular person, thinking about your social networking no-nos is important.

Here’re some traits of those I’ve jilted.

  • Excessive gaming requests.
  • Abundant diet or exercise updates.
  • Casual Racism – usually ill-informed nonsense about people ‘taykin are jobs.’ Sun-reader alert.
  • People who have terrible grammar and spelling. I’m no Shakespeare, and this wouldn’t be a sole reason for elimination – but it certainly wouldn’t help your cause.
  • People who constantly post statuses about their ailments.
  • People whose profile picture is their cat.

It’s extremely satisfying and somewhat cathartic, and like any de-cluttering, the process rids us of the old and unnecessary, and facilitates the arrival of new, real, friendships.

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Happy Culling!

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Six Things I Hate

Overly expensive public transport.

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When I get a bus or a tram, I’d rather not have to use a £5 note. I want to feel like I’m being actively thrifty.

‘Limited Edition’ fast food.

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Dear Ronald McDonald,

Why would you allow me the gastronomic pleasure of the California melt (as featured in your ‘Great Tastes of America’ range) only to tear it from my affectionate clutches a meagre week later?

Reverse Snobbery.

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Don’t hate on posh kids.

Wind.

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Easily my most hated element. I would forever forego sunshine to live in a windless world.

Drive-thru Order Machines (I eat too much fast food.)

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It’s so embarrassing when I forget to order, and then sit at the collection booth looking like a fool. I usually say I’ll go round again, but then just drive away in shame. This has happened more than once.

And This.

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Oh, you have a tiny moustache tattooed on your finger? How amusing. Here’s an idea…why don’t you just grow a moustache, or if you really want one and you’re female, maybe have one tattooed on your upper-lip. Silly.

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Me Me Me. The Curse of the Quarter-Life Crisis.

Last year, I left Durham University with a great degree and all the good intentions of a recent graduate. I would take up one of my many offers for post-graduate study, progress to PhD level and eventually take over the world with my all-encompassing knowledge of 19th century psychological concepts and their manifestations in Strauss’ operas.

Well, almost 18 months have passed and since then. I’ve forgotten how to reference an essay, I couldn’t even name an opera by Strauss, I spent 5 months cleaning toilets and snowboarding in France, and now swan around the £6 million home of a super-rich family under the guise of ‘housekeeper’ (more on this another time).

So what happened? The inexorable quarter-life crisis (QLC to those in the know).


Who am I?

What do I want from life?

Where I am right now?


We graduate college and university with a little piece of paper that tells us we are ready to answer these questions and take on the real world. But find me a twenty-something that can do this, whilst affirming their happiness and satisfaction with life, and I’ll shake your hand.

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The QLC forces us to grapple with these questions – to no avail – and allows us to sink into a desperate pursuit of our (lets face it, only just past teenage) identities. Female readers, you may also be familiar with the associated fear of shrivelling ovaries and the lack of a life-partner. (That’s another blog all together though, isn’t it?)

Whether the inability to answer these questions leads us to a few alcohol-infused weeks of reckless abandonment, into a job that we don’t want but that pays the bills, or even drives us to the French Alps or onto a South-East Asian voyage of discovery, the worst part remains the same:

The QLC is a lonely place to be.

Most of us are lucky enough to have someone on our side – perhaps a friend to take to Thailand, a parent to constantly remind you of your wonderful achievements – which, of course, far surpass those of any other twenty-something – or even the dog to assure you ‘It’s OK, I still live with mum and dad too.’

Even so, no one can really understand the true burden of the QLC. How can they help you find the answers when you don’t really know the questions? How can they help you find out who you want to be when you don’t even know who you are?

But from what I’ve read, the QLC is unavoidable and fairly common. There’s even a website: http://www.quarterlifecrisis.com.

Anyway, the point is, you are not alone. I wont tell that all is not lost, because right now, I’m sure it is. So yes, fret away.

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I started a blog. It sort-of helped.

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