Posts Tagged

learning

No Greater Insult

I constantly kick myself for not knowing enough about the world. Every day I learn about a new figure or amazing personality, and as excited as I am to learn something new, I always berate myself for not finding out about it sooner. There are so many things that I should know, but there is a finite amount of time within which to learn it.

My hunger for knowledge overtakes my commute. The two hours that it takes to get to the office (not an exaggeration) is a combination of listening to new albums on Spotify, reading my book on marketing and watching a daily TEDx talk. A lot of people have spoken to me about TED talks and tell me that they fall asleep to them. I don’t know how they do that as I am hooked from the moment the video starts.

On Friday, however, with the onrush of the working day rendering me physically exhausted, I had to retire at home and get my learning fix from elsewhere. I may be overdoing it. Well, I am overdoing it. It often happens that I fall ill have to restore settings to the last time that they worked properly. On instruction from my manager to rest, I chose to watch The Imitation Game, as it was another on the “must-watch” list of films that I haven’t made much of a dent in. You can probably tell I am not the sort to sit still for two hours straight.

However, the entire film engulfed me. Even though the Hollywood interpretation makes Bletchley Park look like a luxury estate, when after seeing it as a high school student it looked more like a dilapidated college, I was taken aback by the work of Alan Turing. I had never really heard of him before. I had seen a poster or two and the name rang a bell, but nothing more than that. It still upsets me now that I did not look into it further.

I could not be typing if it were not for the work of this man and his team. It is incredible to think that the digital civilisation that we find ourselves in now can be traced back to a shelter in the south of England that cracked the most difficult puzzle in the world. My life would be completely different without him, and I didn’t even know his name.

It unsettles me. The idea that a man’s name could be forcibly forgotten because he was gay. One of the most important minds in the history of the world could be so easily tossed aside because of his personal life. He is the reason that 14 million people lived on and that the war finished early. A society that he chose to save gave him no option other than to kill himself. There is no greater insult than that.

And now our personal lives are on show. The secrets that Alan kept and the truths that he cracked are now celebrated (by some). There are other parts of the world where he would still be considered a criminal. It frightens me that you can be imprisoned/killed for something that you can never atone for – a part of your being that is considered fundamentally unlawful. And for goodness sake, your sexuality is not a choice. It cannot be ripped from you.

As soon as we forget our humanity, and we choose not to see it in others, is the day that we ourselves become inhuman. The monsters that we hope to extinguish. The only question is: how many more great minds must we lose before we remember?

There will be more thoughts on this in the future I am sure.

Nine Two Five

Working life is in itself an oxymoron. I have found it very difficult to distinguish between work and my life since I started my internship. The company itself, to its credit, prides itself on finding the right work/life balance and making sure that you have something outside of the job. Yet it is very difficult to find that when you are interning. The idea that you are 5 weeks away from a job that could secure you for the next chapter, makes it difficult to make time to play tennis three times a week.

It is this constant nagging concern that you aren’t doing enough. There is no benchmark for knowing what is going to happen, and so you are working, thinking, doing everything you can to impress. And it’s absolutely exhausting. Looking back after half my time in this job, I have never worked so hard in my life, and I usually work for myself. The ability to prioritise, work at a thousand miles an hour and make sure that I make the 17:36 train to London Waterloo makes it a challenge every day.

I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed every second of it. Everyone who says that is lying. At times, it is incredibly stressful, upsetting and downright frustrating. I am starting to make headway, but it has been a very steep learning curve.

Luckily, I do have a great manager who is incredibly perceptive to the journey that I am on. In a typical 9 to 5, it feels like I am doing 925 hours of work and he is appreciative of that. However, there are plenty I have seen that have killed the motivation of interns they have working for them because they simply don’t have time. It amazes me how managers forget that they started at the bottom rung of the ladder and someone gave them a step up.

I have no idea whether I am going to get this job or not. And now five weeks in, I realise that this is out of my control. What I can control is how I present myself in this environment. Winning means doing the best you can, and if it doesn’t work here, then it will work somewhere else. Effort has never let me down. It has always taught me to be hungry for more.

I am taking this weekend to reflect about how I am really doing. Personally, rather than professionally. I think that is why I am starting by writing down my thoughts here. My development is as important as the bottom line.

This Is For You

I’m sitting on a train contemplating adulthood. I never much felt like a teenager, but now it’s a fact. And I can’t help feeling like I got here too soon. Thinking back to the first time I got on a tube myself, or when my Mum trusted me to get the bus to school on my own, clutching a handful of 20p coins that I shakily gave the bus driver. Snatching my ticket and jerking my head back, I could see a smile on her face and watery eyes – I was growing up. Now sitting on a train, the thousandth time on my own, it makes me realise how such a scary notion has become second nature.

I started to look back at my old school photos, and wondered how I’ve managed to lose the dimple in my left cheek over the years. How the clothes started to get a bit tighter and the collar a bit sharper. And the final one in a suit, with hair slicked back, almost ready to take on the world too soon. Now wearing the same suit, with three others in the wardrobe, ready to take on job interviews and actually seeing the minus sign in my bank account disappearing (for a short while at least).

Being 20 comes with pressure. And it is all self-inflicted. The party that I turned up to seven years ago, when I didn’t really know anyone, has become all too familiar. It isn’t about video games but the Game, and the drinks are less fizzy and more fermented. Everyone is a little bit more blurry, and the morning after is starting to hit harder. Innocence was lost a long time ago, but Ignorance is starting to fade. As I read in a recent VICE article, the party doesn’t end until you wake up and walk home.

But I don’t want to. I was sitting with a few friends in the early hours of this morning, the obligatory “Happy Birthday” sung amidst some of the people that really matter at university. I wasn’t in a mass of people, there was no cake or formality – it was a relaxed smile and a cold drink…I much prefer that. The party that I am turning up to has changed, the world has changed, but I haven’t – not in myself. The real 13 year old that got onto the bus, handing in that change, is now looking to make a different sort of change at 20.

I am not a birthday person. I never have been, but I like the fact that I can reconnect with my past, and the people that hold up that mirror. This is the first time it felt different. When I woke up feeling like things are actually clearer. I am healthy, content, assured, smiling and loved. I couldn’t ask for much more when the daylight hit my face this morning.

This birthday isn’t for me. I never want it to be. I want it to be about the people that have supported me. That have loved and lost me. That have walked in and out, leaving the door open so I can see them waving in the distant. This day is my thank you to them – not the other way around. Because I wouldn’t be here to “celebrate” it without them. I would still be the shaky handed, slick haired kid with fear in his eyes as to what was coming.

My body is not shaking anymore, although my hair is a little rougher. And I definitely need a shave. I am not afraid of the future, I am embracing it. And this means embracing you. So if you see me, hold out for that hug and smile.

Because this is for you. Cheers.

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Missed Opportunities

Excerpts from Europe: Part Six

When we first walked out of the station in Prague, I fell in love with it. Having seen the character of Budapest and the veneer of Vienna, Prague was a perfect balance of the two. It instantly had the feel of being a busy city, but at the same time, the pockets of a quiet suburb that instantly appealed to me. It reminded me of home.

Then we got into the tourist shops. Prague is notorious for being the centre of a once strong Jewish community that has to some extent slowly rescinded in the years up until now. Even one of our group, of Jewish heritage, was excited to see a bit of the history. Then we saw a Hitler face mask literally two metres from the Jewish district. Our whole perception of Prague changed in an instant.

This city is a gimmick, a place for the flocks of idle tourists to experience culture (at a reasonable price). It was thoroughly disappointing – a missed opportunity for a town and country that is dripping with history. This was accentuated by the fact that Prague runs a large pub crawl, of you guessed it, tourists, run by British reps. The clubs in Prague tend to cater to their clients.

By 1 o’clock we hustled our way to the third bar/club, Roxy, which epitomised our first night in Prague. It was not authentic – it seemed to rip off its more Western partners – although it didn’t stop us having a good night. The fact that we missed various “opportunities” (think of that what you will) at these clubs due to the watered down drinks was a frustration for me. It seems like I had run the 100m and ducked out of the photo finish.

Although, everything is a learning curve – and we are learning as we go along. We have to expect mistakes, trip-ups, fits of passion and emotion; especially as we get more and more tired. But we need to push through it, the best is yet to come. All of us can feel it. And we don’t want to miss out.

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Another city, another club.

I’m Back Baby

This is the season of slumping. The time when most students hibernate into their rooms to stare at the artificial glow of their laptops as the first rays of Spring make concentration impossible. When punch cards for coffee are used vigorously in library cafes and books start to pile on empty desks one by one. This is the time when a year’s worth of learning is condensed into a month’s understanding and a week’s application. And here I lie, books firmly closed, writing another letter to you.

I feel invigorated. As the passion of writing and reading courses through every sinew of my being again, I can proudly announce that I am no exam machine. Although I will have to furiously write four essays in three hours and repeat this process three more times, the biro digging into my middle finger will not bother me. I will look at it as an opportunity to progress, to push myself further than I thought I would have to. I will approach things in a different way, actually believing that failure is a stepping stone to success rather than secretly thinking this is what inadequate people tell themselves to feel better.

I will remember what is important. The things that I have seen and experienced taking the first steps on my own, the mistakes I have made thinking that I knew it all. The people I put faith in who came through, and the ones who promised the world but delivered little more than excuses. And the ones who put their hands on my shoulder when I least expected them to. And the hands that lifted me up that I didn’t even recognise.

I am writing again and it feels fantastic. I don’t feel bottled up or stored away which can happen when you repress an expressive instinct. I do not feel caged or restricted or stopped by anything or anyone other than myself which is the perfect place to be. I feel like my head is clearer than it once was and all the doubts of impression have slowly subsided as each day has painted a bigger smile across my face. I can let the words flow, the metaphors drop and realise that I am at the peak of my being. It doesn’t even have to make sense, and it probably doesn’t, but strong emotions rarely do.

This is just the beginning. I have a cause and a direction. I am not bogged down in details, nor am I lost in the translation of the bigger picture. While everyone is questioning themselves, I am starting to find the answers. I have stopped running in circles and started to walk towards a path that will lead me to gratification. The speed of my fingers cannot keep up with the ideas that are pedalling back and forward in that brain of mine. So I will write them here. And I will make time to make them grow.

And did I mention? I’m back, baby. And it doesn’t look like I’m leavin’ any time soon…

Exceptions – Woolwich

I am not about to wade in with a half-measured opinion about the harrowing events of this week. Instead, I am more interested in opening a real discussion about the deeper issues that go past the mere description of the actions of two sociopathic individuals. What I really want to understand is not what happened, but the wider reaction to it from normal people – because that is where the debate and ignorance really lies.

The most important question that I want to answer is why we equate terrorism with religion? It seems that more and more, as attacks and horrible events occur, we seem to jump to the conclusion that it must be down to a religious fanatic? And we tend to place the blame on more monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam – as if those who hold these beliefs are collectively at fault for the actions of a select few. I am not saying that we all harbour extreme prejudice, but I will argue, that for a split second, even if it is just an instinct, when we hear the word ‘terrorist’, do we not think of ‘(religious) extremist’?

I am no conspiracy theorist, but there seems to be serious issues with the way in which these incidents are reported. One of things that infuriated me was the way in which Nick Robinson, political editor on the BBC, referred to the perpetrators as of “Muslim descendant” based on hearsay in Whitehall, rather than actual evidence which was accumulated hours later. It was bad journalism, and by all accounts, he should have known better. There was absolutely no reason to further perpetuate the stereotype, even if he claimed that it was based on a reliable source – it was wrong.

But does that open up the real prejudices that lie just beneath the surface? It seems like we don’t even know what terrorism is anymore. Terrorism is the use of violence or intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. The fact that we look to dive into the religious motivations of these idiots may be what they want us to do, but we should ignore it. We shouldn’t give them the satisfaction. When they tell us how the actions of our governments have made their lives and the lives of their ‘brothers and sisters’ intolerable, remind yourself that these people are isolated. When they tell us that we are killing innocent women and children, remember that you don’t have blood on your hands like they claim. When they tell us that they are killing in the name of their God, know that no God would condone murder in his/her name. Don’t buy into the theories of madness.

See them for who they truly are – disillusioned, violent, ignorant, stupid and most importantly, alone. They act alone and we should treat them as exceptions to the rule. Religious people are not in any way associated with terrorists, so don’t act out against them, otherwise you will be proving the excuses of the idiots that conduct these massacres. Violence begets more violence, hate begets more hate and death begets more death. Let’s stop making the same mistakes and start learning.