I’ve been an adult for a little while now and have spent some time learning a little bit about just what that means. Having said that, though, I’ve also had time to reflect on my time spent as a teenager. So here’s a few things I wish I knew back then.
1. People will bitch and backstab and gossip. As will you. Don’t take it to heart.
2. Work hard and save as much as you can. Trust me, you’ll need it.
3. Everyone has struggles. Everyone has their shit. Some just hide it better than others.
4. You don’t have to do things or squash yourself down just to fit in.
5. Before you stress about something, consider if it’ll matter in five years’ time.
6. Take pictures. Every chance you get. Everyone you love. You will treasure them.
7. It’s okay to not like things everyone else likes. And vice versa.
8. It doesn’t matter if you’re popular, unpopular or somewhere in between. It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference the minute you’re out of school and into the real world.
9. Find your passion and don’t let anyone laugh at you for it.
10. It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life. I’ve already changed the career I was working towards three times, and gone back into education twice since A-Levels.
11. Honesty really is the best policy. People value it and you’ll value it in other people.
12. No one has it all figured out. I don’t now, and I doubt I will when I’m 80. That’s just life, I guess.
My line of work, like many people’s, involves answering the telephone on an hourly basis. As I’ve explained before, this is something fairly nerve-wracking for me, but there’s also a substantial amount of curiosity to be found in the task. Recently, at one of my two workplaces, we’ve been receiving a steady and noticeable stream of wrong number calls from various people. When you answer the phone to them, some pre-empt what you are going to say, admit their mistake and immediately hang up on you. Others are ensnared in a moment of confusion; I will open with my usual professional greeting, and they will question why they aren’t speaking to their mate Derek before the penny quickly drops and they leave me be. In my particular experience, there have even been elderly people who – mistaking my workplace for the local hospital – have proceeded to describe gruesome ailments in considerable detail before my awkward admission that I am not medically qualified to deal with their complaint. They can put you off your lunch at times, as it happens.
Whatever their reasons for calling (albeit unintentionally), these people do all have one thing in common, at least in my view. Because they’re totally anonymous – the calls generally don’t last long enough for me to establish their identities – I always do wonder who they are, and what their stories are. Why might a phone call to the aforementioned Derek be so important? Was it intended as a simple catch-up between friends, or was he being sought out as part of the resolution to a life or death situation? When I am mistakenly contacted by confused hospital-goers, how worried are they about the problems they face? Are they looking for an answer to a simple question, or are they frantically searching for a second opinion on something that could potentially change life forever? All I can do is ponder, as any writer might. Whatever the truth may be, that’s what this is good for – imagination and inspiration. As annoying, inconvenient and brief as some wrong number calls may be, they do make me think – so maybe the people on the end, whom I generally speak to for no more than a split second each time, do have a much bigger impact on my day than I could ever have anticipated.
I often look through some of my past notebooks on a hunt for blog inspiration, and it was on the very last page of one particular book that I found the scribblings I wanted you all to read about here. They came from the last year of sixth form – 19 November 2014, to be precise – and an A2 Media lesson that saw us focus on “citizen journalism”, something defined by a quick Google search as “the collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet.” I remember that it was a concept I found intriguing at the time, and something I definitely wanted to know more about. I liked the idea of these news vigilantes getting their hands dirty and plucking things the world needs to know about from under the noses of the big media corporations. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in something like that? Whatever we were saying about it in the lesson, we were obviously writing down some of the pros and cons associated with it, because these are what I found in my book in all of their black Biro glory.
The first pro I wrote is the one that caught my eye the most – it quite simply says that citizen journalism “allows normal people to create and collaborate”, and that this has the potential to “educate them in the process”. I like the fact that this is the first note on my list, because it immediately establishes that citizen journalism is a concept open to everyone, no matter who they may be. Furthermore, the “collaborative creativity” aspect of the whole thing is something I wanted this blog to aspire to when Will, Emily and Tamara all came on board, and I hope it can continue to do so as more people get involved in the future. Citizen journalism is already setting a few good examples for us, and we’re still only on the first bullet point on the page. The second says that it “reverses long-standing media hierarchies”. There’s a lot of very interesting stuff in the news, but we all know that there’s also a lot of bullshit which can heavily influence the unsuspecting victims reading it through widespread hegemony. With that in mind, it’s good to know that those who partake in citizen journalism can challenge this by taking it upon themselves to go solo and find out the truth. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that my notes end after this point and there are no cons in my book – because, unless everything goes catastrophically wrong, how many downsides to citizen journalism are there?
I recently heard the words “good for the soul” uttered by a character on an episode of Home and Away (popular culture is never far away from this blog). If I remember rightly, they were referring to the effects of a bowl of chicken soup, but I wanted to think about some deeper applications of the phrase. So my natural instinct told me to ask around amongst some of my friends. One offered the predictable – but not incorrect – suggestion that “friends and happiness” were good for the soul, whilst another suggested “allowing yourself to make mistakes” was healthy. On the other, more unexpected hand, there was Will’s answer, namely “if I don’t believe in anything to do with spiritualism, I’m not going to believe in the soul.” Interesting.
After asking just three people, I already had a fairly wide range of responses to my question, but I was still convinced that there could be more, so I continued to privately ponder it whilst gradually forming this post. I have been writing this over several weeks, and there was a time when I wondered whether it would see the light of day; just when all hope seemed lost, though, I found just what I was looking for. As a regular user of Facebook like many others, I am used to messages coming and going on a daily basis, but I came across the kind of message I’m not so accustomed to last week. Logging in as normal, I spotted a message from one friend – who I haven’t seen in some time – which looked an awful lot like a very unexpected invitation. “Would you be free…”
I had only opened the initial drop-down inbox menu, so the end of the question was cut off. What would I be free to do? Instantly, I had to find out. It was indeed an invitation, met by the widest of smiles spreading across my face. The friend in question was one with whom I talk quite happily very often, but even so, I wasn’t prepared for the fact that they were actually asking me for a meeting, not the other way around. “Would you be free one evening on the week of the 18th? I have a Christmas card I’d like to give to you!” Wow. I had just had a clear example of what was good for the soul unwittingly handed to me on a plate, and it warmed the cockles of my heart. Very festive. Having felt as though I was holding people back for the majority of my short life so far, it was wonderful to see more evidence suggesting that maybe this isn’t the case after all, and that people want to see me as much as I want to see them. “I think seeing people is an important element of Christmas, more so than the frugal exchange of gifts,” said my friend. Amen to that. Of course, I gladly accepted the invite and we’re meeting this coming Thursday. For them, it might be nothing more than a pleasant evening out with someone they like, but for me, it is a simple but remarkable Christmas surprise that will be very much appreciated. It confirms that to some extent, I am worth something to people, and if my friend is reading this, they can consider my soul duly enlightened.
As a pair of budding writers, Will and I often discuss the ways in which we hone our craft. He does so in his screenwriting degree (being in his third and final year already), while I do so mainly here, on this blog for all of you. I find the idea that each writer has their own individual style very interesting, because – in my case at least – it was developed subconsciously. Not for one minute did I think “I want to write in this way” or “I want people to take this from what I write”. I obviously never fully recognised what was influencing me in each piece of work, but it was there, albeit in a behind-the-scenes role that almost allowed my supposed style to shape itself. But is it the same for others? What are their styles, and do they come about in the same way, or are they more consciously designed?
Before I go any further, I should explain how this train of thought came about. It actually emerged from a “senior moment” for Will, if I can call it that. When we were exchanging our latest opinions on one another’s writing, he happened to enquire after a blog post I had written comparing our respective styles. The only problem was that it didn’t exist – but I swiftly decided that perhaps it should. So, upon announcing this post’s imminent arrival, I asked Will again what he thought the differences between us were as writers. In a nutshell, he believes trial and error is at the heart of his own creative process. When he is writing a script, the dialogue he uses will most likely come spontaneously, but everything else he writes is derived from his own personality. “I often don’t know how my sentence is going to end as I’m starting it,” he says of the way in which he talks. He redrafts, of course, but you never quite know what the destination of his material is going to be – and that’s what makes it such a rollercoaster ride to read, with comedy and drama often in unequal measure.
The fact that Will was able to properly explain his writing style would suggest that he’s been able to actively build it to some extent. I, however, have much less control over the direction of what I produce. I told Will that whenever someone compliments my style I never quite know how to respond, because although I appreciate the fact they like it, I have no idea what I actually did! I suppose it’ll always be interesting to keep on finding out. “You seem to analyse every word you write,” Will said to me, “leading it to be more straightforward.” Then he paused for a moment. “Not straightforward, but streamlined,” he added. Streamlined. Blimey, that’s a cool way of putting it, whether it’s true or not. I’ll take that!
We’ve probably all participated in at least one game of Chinese Whispers at some point, when a group sits in a circle to listen to a buzzword or phrase become increasingly warped as it passes from ear to ear. In a carefree, social context like that it can be good fun, but Chinese Whispers are of course present in real life too, mainly in the form of upsetting and potentially damaging rumours. Some are today’s news and tomorrow’s chip paper, whilst others linger like bad smells for prolonged periods of time – with each assumed form being even worse than the last. They are constantly evolving monsters, and there can be no guessing what might happen next or when they might end. With that in mind, I asked some of my friends what the best and worst rumours they had ever heard about themselves were, and in one particular case I was pleasantly surprised to find a more positive way of looking at them.
The idea for this post originated with Emily, when one of our recent conversations drifted towards the aforementioned rumours. I promised not to mention any of them here, but I feel like I must say how uplifting it was to see the way in which she reacted to them. She would have had every right to spout pure bile and vitriol towards those responsible for spinning all of this, but instead chooses to look back on it almost as though it forms a fond teenage memory. “If you’re not laughing,” she told me, “it’s just sad. And no-one wants that.” I suppose that in refusing to be put down by what others are saying about her, Emily is depriving any given rumour of the oxygen it needs to thrive, and is therefore killing a parasite before it can breed and snowball into something more devastating. What’s more, she’s doing so with equal doses of humour and a thick and resilient (but never cold) skin.
Maybe the fact that Emily has had to deal with a certain number of these rumours means that her character has developed to some extent. I don’t know how she felt the very first time she heard something about herself, but perhaps she’s now better equipped to deal with the harsher aspects of life than she was, say, seven years ago, when we first met. She seemed to prove me right in her end summary, quite bluntly closing the matter with: “I’ve just learned to get on with shit.” Right. Can’t get much clearer than that. I then asked her if I could quote that to close this post – and, like the pussycat she really is, she said it was fine, followed by a smiley face. See? Hardened resilience, and then the more typical soft warmth that you can find under almost any set of circumstances. Good old Em!
I like to keep this blog as open as I can in terms of the subject matter it covers, but recently I’ve still felt pressure to write a “mission statement” or objective of sorts for Third Time Enabled. If I’m going to take it seriously and make it some kind of living, what do I want it to be? It was while pondering this question recently that I decided to take stock and compose a post that addressed it directly. In an ideal world, I want this project to grow into an outlet where myself and all other contributors have the opportunity to express respectful “opinion”, stories and thoughts from all corners of the “imagination”, and various items of interesting “information” from different areas of popular culture. I like to call these key words “the three ions”.
If I want to reach these as objectives, I’ve decided that we’ll first need some new voices. With that in mind, if you’d like to bring the three ions to life in a warm, humorous, imaginative and polite manner, please feel free to get in touch. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet me – I’m @HawkerMason – or message me on Facebook. I won’t bite, I promise; in fact, I’ll be delighted to discuss any ideas you might have floating around. Hopefully I’ll hear from you soon!
I know this post is much shorter than most of the others, but normal service will resume with the next one. Anyway, sometimes the brief job advertisements are amongst the best, don’t you think?