yoyoangel asked "Could you tell us something about where you're at with religion, these days, in terms of practice and/or beliefs?"
So this is actually quite difficult, because I'm a practicing catholic in the Church of England, and I don't really believe in God. Which is to say, that although I have a gut feeling that something Godlike probably exists, if I think about it hard and look at the evidence, it seems much more likely that we've evolved to have that gut feeling for various reasons that have nothing to do with it actually being true, and that in fact, it probably isn't.
However, (1) knowing that doesn't make the feeling go away, and (2) the last decade or so has demonstrated very clearly to me that participating in regular worship and being part of a church community makes me much happier and mentally healthier and kinder than when I'm not. So I just don't think too hard about it.
I'm a Christian specifically partly because it's what I grew up with, but mostly because the Easter Story, the sacrifice of everything, and the love of all humanity no matter how flawed we are is something that is beautiful and magical whether it is true or not. I'm catholic specifically because it's the liturgy I grew up with, and all the emotional responses I have to the Easter Story are hotkeyed to that liturgy. I'm anglo-catholic because "we believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" and that church is Little St Mary's in Cambridge. More seriously though - LSM was a wonderful place for me, and where I first realised how much happier I was being part of a church community, but also, until recently the Roman church has been rather hostile to us queers, and although that can certainly be found in the CoE* it's also much easier to find catholic communities who are actively welcoming.
I worship at St John the Evangelist, Brownswood Park, which is actually my parish church. When we last moved I was expecting to go to another church nearby which I used to attend last time we lived near Finsbury Park, but it's about half an hour away, so I figured I'd try the parish church first, and it turned out to be just my sort of place liturgically, as well as being closer, having an extremely charming** priest, and not being Backwards in Bigotry***.
I'm on the serving team, which means that most of the time when I'm attending Mass I'm in the sacristy party - either thurifer (that's swinging the smoking handbag with incense in), or crucifer (carrying the cross during the procession in and out, and helping the priest prepare the bread and wine which will become the body and blood of Christ). This actually helps a lot with the not-actually-believing stuff, because it means that I'm concentrating sufficently hard on what happens next in the liturgy that I don't get bogged down in too much "but what if this is all meaningless".
*I remain utterly devastated that I still can't get married - please tread with extreme care if you want to discuss this
**although younger than me, which I find a bit terrifying
***Forward in Faith, the organisation opposed to the ordination of women, which is made up of an uneasy alliance of evangelical biblical literalists who think that women should be silent because that's what Paul said (and also that homosexualists should burn in hell), and high church Anglo-Catholics who are mostly older gay men who think that women have cooties and should be kept away from their playhouse.
I used to wear nail polish quite a lot whilst I was living in Cambridge and going to goth clubs regularly, but then fell out of the habit until my recent stint in Oxford, where there was once again a club I could go to and be able to get home without wrestling with night buses. At first is was just a single basic colour - usually dark jewel colours or metallics. Then one time when I was buying nail polishes I noticed some nail stickers that were quite cool, and a little while after that I tried looking for some specific stickers online, realised just how many interesting nail art supplies and gadgets there were to be had, and kind of fell down the rabbit hole.
One of the things I really like about it is that although I'm not at all artistic, and generally can't do the complex hand-painted designs especially well, there's loads and loads of other techniques and designs that don't require much skill once I've had a bit of practice, but are interesting enough that strangers compliment them fairly frequently. I did different things for each nail at the party - initially because I was demonstrating techniques, and then after that because it would be silly to have one hand all different, and one hand all the same.
( pictures and notes below the cut )
I really enjoy the process of doing my nails, especially when a new technique really comes together well, and what's more, I get a little burst of joy every time I look at them for days. It may be horribly vain, but it still makes me happy.
I suspect the Approved Thing is to send a polite message through ebay alerting the seller to the smelliness of their sales items, and/or leave something in the feedback form? Probably not the latter until after the former? No idea how to phrase feedback; not doing great at phrasing a message right now.
Not sure if I want or should ask for some refund? I strongly dislike the smell but it doesn't actually make me ill, and I felt I'd bought at a reasonable price. There was no indication of it coming from a smokers household. Of course there's no indication in the item description of it coming from a smoke-free household either, which some sellers do emphasise; perhaps I should stick only to such sellers for future clothing purchases. (Mind you even then I quite often end up with clothes smelling really strongly of washing liquid artificial scent which also needs washing out before I can bear to wear them/put them on my children.)
temptations in bitmap typography: replacing code points U+0108 U+0109 U+011C U+011D U+0124 U+0125 U+0134 U+0135 U+015C U+015D ("ĈĉĜĝĤĥĴĵŜŝ" yes those are circumflexes) with a set of pixels that, when those code points are written in order, says something rude about Ludwik Lazarus Zamenhof.
Unlike 10 days ago, I have managed to take some drugs while the aura is still in progress.. Let's see how this goes.
I seem to have improved my energy levels to the point where I can stay up too late repeatedly, and give myself migraines. Onward with glorious purpose!
Later edit ~19:00: The painkillers did not take; I ended up begging a lift home from a coworker and taking my nauseous headachy self to lie very still in a dark room. After a while I felt better enough to come out and eat and drink a bit, but the headache persists, so back I go.
What I mostly do is a mixture of data wrangling and project management, which I've done in a variety of sectors - initially in telecommunications, then at a hedge fund, and for the last few years in higher education. For a little over a year I've been doing it on a self-employed consultancy basis, first at Oxford University, and now at Kingston. I find that this suits me quite well, as I tend to get bored fairly easily, and usually find that my interest in a job starts to dwindle around 6-12 months in no matter how interesting the content actually is. Working as a consultant means that I can effectively change jobs that frequently without looking like a flake who can't stick to anything.
So that's where I am now. I got both of the current contracts through an agency, and I'll probably rely on them to find me a few more whilst I build up contacts and fill out a few last gaps in my CV. I'm aiming to gradually shift the focus of the work I do from being mostly data with a bit of management to mostly management with a bit of data, and I've actually just had a heads up about a possible new contract after the Kingston one ends which would be a bit of a move in that direction. I'm almost certain to stay within the HE sector for the next few years, as by now I've picked up quite a lot of sector-specific expertise, but once I've had a couple of senior management roles in HE then I'll probably try to broaden my horizons a bit. I think that once I've got a really solid set of transferable skills under my belt it'll be easier to, well, transfer them, and what I really want to do is have access to enough work in London to keep me here most of the time.
I think that five years from now I'll probably be around the point of "just about have enough senior experience to start looking at other sectors". Where I'll be ten years from now is a bit more uncertain. I might just keep doing interim management contracts on a mostly full time basis and hopefully be able to retire quite early, or I might deliberately take gaps as long as I can afford and enjoy rather more leisure time. If I end up getting more interest than I can supply I might even start to employ other people and end up running a small management consultancy, but time will very much tell on that. It's hard to know what my priorities will be by then.
I have arrived at what I believe to be a universally-useful definition of the term 'stupid question': "A question asked for a purpose other than the querent's own edification and whose actual answer is both (a) known to members of the audience who are in a position to respond and (b) inconvenient to the querent's purpose."
emperor: Where do you see yourself professionally in 5ish years
nou: making and maintaining friendships
yoyoangel: Religious practice and beliefs
bunnypip: fabulous nails
Cheeky 2nd requests which I'll do if I have time:
emperor: Highlights of 2014
- Thanks for all the advice on running shoes - I got some new ones yesterday, and they definitely help. I remain uneaten by zombies. Hoorah.
- I'm hosting a Nails & Cocktails party next weekend - I invited people on the book of face, but if you're not on there and are interested let me know and I'll give you the details (basically, we drink delicious cocktails and paint each others' nails - what's not to love?)
- I'm going through a phase of missing Cambridge in general and LSM in particular. I visited last weekend and it was absolutely wonderful but now I'm a bit sad that I don't live there any more (although London and St John's are wonderful too!)
- Work is ridiculously busy at the moment, but it should calm down by next week, which I am looking forward to, and the Christmas break a couple of weeks later even more.
- Ramesh & I are going to stay in a little cottage in Devon for a few days. This will be the first time we've been away together just the two of us since we went to Prague on our 3rd date (nearly six years ago, for those of you who've not been counting)
"Confidence. You always seem to be really confident, you have a job that requires you to convince clients you're really good at what you do, and you have such a great sense of style, and you throw yourself into acting and readthroughs with gusto. Do you actually feel really confident about putting yourself out there like that, or are you more faking it? In either case, how do you do it?"
So my first reaction on reading this was to think "Well, I am really good at my job, and I'm pretty good at acting these days, so it's quite easy to be confident about them". And then I realised what I'd just thought and laughed at myself a bit, but I think it fairly clearly answers the first part of the question, that I do actually feel really confident at least about some things. So how do I do it? Well, it's not really something I do conciously at all, but I can say something about how it came about...
When I was younger I had very little confidence, especially after my depression started kicking in at around eleven or twelve. I spent my early teens holing myself up in my room, earnestly believing that my only good quality was my academic ability. About the time I moved from school to sixth-form college I started to find friends who actually appeared to like me, and that did start to break into the well of self-loathing that I'd built up, but unfortunately by that time it was deep and dark enough that it wasn't going to disappear easily. I did what I think maybe a lot of people who are just stepping out of that pit do and swung far too far in the opposite direction, pulling on armour of apparent arrogance which wasn't really very nice, although at the time it probably was better than the alternatives.
This continued through my late teens and early 20s, too-ing and fro-ing as I lost and gained ground in my battle with the underlying depression. And then 2003 happened. 2003 was the year that everything in my life went to hell in a handbasket - one of my primary partners got sent to prison, I came within a hair's breath of failing my degree, my mother had a stroke, denny had his bike accident, and I was sharing a house with a couple who'd just broken up and caught in the middle of all that drama. It was... it was not a good year. And yet I survived. I even managed to come off anti-depressants that year. And as the New Year came around I realised that if I could survive that, there were very few things the world could throw at me that could break me. And ever since then I've had a very strong sense that ultimately everything will be okay.
And I think that that deep down sense is what makes it possible for me to be genuinely confident about most things. It's not necessarily that I think I'm awesome at everything, but because I trust that everything will be alright, it's very easy to try, and to take the evidence of how well I do at face value. There are things that I'm not confident about - socialising in large groups, meeting new people, especially meeting new people I might want to date - but I think that's mostly because I haven't done them much lately, and it would probably come back if I threw myself into it.
Sadly this isn't terribly useful for someone else wanting to improve their confidence. On the whole, suffer from crippling depression for about a decade, then just as you're recovering have the universe throw as much appalling crap at you as it possibly can, isn't a strategy I'd recommend. But it worked for me.