I was sitting in a writer’s seminar on the weekend, bored out of my brain, wishing the presenter would up the pace and that my fellow participants* would just shut the fuck up. I had paid $60 for the privilege and I expected a lot more for my money than what was dished up. Actually, I wasted $120, because I attended another seminar on the same day (they were run as a tandem) which was only marginally better. I vowed never ever to attend seminars offered by this particular group ever again. Ever. I was over wasting my time and money**.
It got me thinking, though, about other things I’m over. Things that I used to enjoy doing, or get something out of doing, or think I should be pursuing. Things I can’t be bothered doing, or have no time for anymore, or would love to reduce the focus of in my life. These are my top four.
I enjoy learning. I really do. Indeed, I consider myself a lifelong learner. But I’ve come to the conclusion that attending a paid class is not the best way for me to learn about things. I have attended too many workshops, seminars and courses – particularly in the last year or so – where the presenter has been less than skilled at facilitating, teaching or presenting. Often, they have been business people spruiking their business, probably because someone somewhere has told them that presenting is an excellent way of spreading the word about what they do, particularly if they are a service. But what these people don’t seem to realise is that just because they are fabulous writers (or editors or photographers or widget builders) does not mean they are fabulous presenters. Being able to facilitate any sort of learning event takes skill. And if the presenter is unskilled, then the whole thing falls in a heap.
The excellent thing about living in this wonderfully connected world is that learning can happen pretty much anywhere, any time, and generally for free.
The excellent thing about living in this wonderfully connected world is that learning can happen pretty much anywhere, any time, and generally for free. I can study quantum physics online, if I wanted to, via a MOOC. I can subscribe to podcasts, YouTube and blogs on just about any subject I want to know more about: there are experts everywhere, willing to share their knowledge online. Many businesses and professionals offer webcasts on specific topics. I can instantly download reading material (white papers, books, essays, manuals, how-to guides) to my phone or tablet, much for free or at a reduced price. All that is required, generally, is the time and discipline to make it happen, particularly as it is so easy to be distracted.
I used to love social media and I was a very active user, particularly on Twitter. I’ve managed – in the five or so years I’ve been on Twitter – to amass over 72,000 tweets. I’ve never been able to crack 2,000 followers, though. I’ve pinned more than 3,000 items on Pinterest, and I’ve closed and reopened my Instagram account. I have thousands of photos loaded on Flickr. But I’m using these channels less and less. I’ve culled my Facebook friends down to around 60, and these are people who are actually friends: current and previous work colleagues, folks I’ve met travelling, family, old school buddies, that sort of thing. But what I’ve noticed lately is that I’m posting fewer status updates on Facebook as well.
If I dig down deep into the whys and the wherefores, I think it’s because social media is quite superficial. It is difficult (although not impossible) to build and maintain meaningful relationships out of nothing – and I think that is especially true of Twitter
If I dig down deep into the whys and the wherefores, I think it’s because social media is quite superficial. It is difficult (although not impossible) to build and maintain meaningful relationships out of nothing – and I think that is especially true of Twitter. Many a time I’ve had to remind myself that people I’ve virtually connected with aren’t real friends. Social media can also create feelings of inferiority and what about me? what’s wrong with me? why wasn’t I invited? when people are out and about doing their thing, which you aren’t a part of (although you could have been if they had thought about inviting you! And yes, that happened to me recently. And don’t even get me started on my birthday, where people bailed on me left, right and centre at the last-minute with a whole bunch of different excuses, but I could see what they were up to on Facebook!). This stuff can seriously do your head in because you can see what’s going on. Social media is also a major distractor: I’ve removed Facebook from my tablet because I found I’d keep checking what was being said or done and it was interrupting the flow of my reading or writing.
(I still love blogging, though, and will still use social media to pursue my business interests. I’m just cutting back on a personal level, although I’m very aware that with social media, professional is personal and vice versa.)
Men and relationships
I have an Oasis profile that has been inactive for about a year. I created it when I returned from Europe last year, thinking that I’d like to meet someone who could fulfill the function of life partner and travel companion. I ended up deactivating my Oasis account after a month or two, because, well, nothing seemed to be happening. Lots of chatting, but not much meeting and greeting. Call me old-fashioned, but I wasn’t after a pen pal! (Instead, and around the same time, I had met a couple of men offline – not at the same time! – who were disasters.)
Recently, a friend told me that she had met someone really nice on Oasis, and I thought, what the hey? I’ll reactivate my account. And while I did chat to one nice man, I had an epiphany. I didn’t really want anyone in my life. Actually, this epiphany was a bit of a slow burn, because a work colleague – around my age – recently told me that she was much happier when she decided that she didn’t want a boyfriend. I have realised the same thing: I don’t want a man in my life. I just want to do my own thing, on my own terms, in my own way. I don’t want to travel with anyone and I don’t want to share a bed with someone. I don’t want to take on anyone’s issues, or deal with health scares (which is highly likely because of the age of the men I’m likely to date). I don’t want to negotiate or compromise or acquiesce or explain. I don’t want to get to know someone – I don’t have the time, and I certainly can’t be bothered.
Work, specifically having a job
Don’t get me wrong: I like working. I like the income I get from working. And the relationships that I form with my colleagues in the workplace. I like that feeling of satisfaction you get from a job well done. I like the routine of work: having to be somewhere at a certain time because people are more or less counting on you. But there are lots of things I don’t like about having a job. Having a job means that someone is always my superior, even if it’s just positional superiority, and gets to tell me what I can and can’t do. It means that, often, I work with and for people I don’t like very much. It means that a lot of the time I am either bored, or working on stuff that doesn’t have any real value because someone says I have to. I don’t like that I can’t really choose my hours, or what I work on or who I work with. There’s just not that level of flexibility in most workplaces.
But I’m at the stage of my life that I don’t want to work on other people’s stuff. I want to work on my stuff! I want to create, and to earn a decent living from what I create.
Freelance and consulting is an option, and I tried that 10 years ago. But I’m at the stage of my life that I don’t want to work on other people’s stuff. I want to work on my stuff! I want to create, and to earn a decent living from what I create. And I think this is possible through independent publishing, specifically digital publishing. The publication of my first book Love & Other Stuff in a few short months will (hopefully) send me off on my next career trajectory, and will (hopefully) set the scene for me moving into joblessness and loving it. I’d love to turn my kernel of a business idea into a publishing powerhouse, and I’m naive enough to think it just might happen, and experienced enough to know that it will require effort and luck and timing. As one of the characters in one of my most favourite movies ever says: you never know what’s coming for you.
But you know the one thing I’m not over? It’s the surprises and twists and turns and back-flips and somersaults of my life. I will never be over that.
* It’s always intrigued me that when a presenter says: Please ask questions if you don’t understand anything, people assume that they can ask questions about literally anything, even if it’s outside the scope of the topic at hand. I can tell an experienced presenter by the way they manage these sorts of questions, and by association, the questioner. It’s my experience that once the irrelevant questions floodgate is opened, the session deteriorates rapidly because it is dominated by a few irrelevant questioners. The rest of us just sit there, rolling our eyes.
** I’m not one to say: If I just get one thing out of this, I’ll be happy…! Bugger that for a bunch of bananas! I want much more than one thing for my time and money.