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- Username: wondering
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- Wasting time - it's complicated
Hi and welcome to my little tutorial on Time Wasting. I'm happy to explain the concept of wasting time to you, but before I begin, let me tell you a little bit about my credentials. I've studied the art of wasting time, at TAFE and university level. My highest qualification so far is a Graduate Certificate in Wasting Time but I am considering going on to get a PHD in the subject. In my undergraduate studies, I majored in a specific unit called "Time Wasting Delusion Disorder", (TWDD) which is the study of the state of mind of a particular kind of time waster who often ends up feeling what's known as "Chronic Time Frustration". We will go into that in a moment.
I feel that I'm well qualified to tutor you in this topic. Since finishing my university studies, I have diligently kept up my time wasting practice, pretty much daily. I manage to fit this around my paid work, and sometimes even fit a little bit in during my paid work, although unlike some types of time wasters, I generally keep my time wasting separate to my paid work. This means that I fit the profile of the average TWDD sufferer, who is generally a fairly conscientious person, both in work and outside of it, and actually abhors the idea of wasting time.
Why does someone who is conscientious waste time, I hear you ask. A very good question. Well, it seems that some poor sods are cursed with a sense that every moment they are doing something (other than sleeping), the thing that they are doing should be useful and somehow enhance their life or the lives of others. Not in a huge, life-changing way (that would be a ridiculous pressure every moment of the day) but just in a small way. For example, the TWDD's reasoning goes along the lines that reading a novel is a more useful activity than watching a re-run of Seinfeld. Why? Well, because we all know that reading is a smarter activity than watching tv. It is more active, utilises your imagination, increases your vocabulary, and gives you material to write a blog post, in which you can sound literary and intelligent. Far more stimulating to the synapses than watching a Seinfeld episode you can already quote lines from.
It's kind of like being lumped with a Protestant Work Ethic, without necessarily even being a Protestant. However, possibly unlike the average Protestant, the TWDD Sufferer finds it hard to work in mind-numbingly boring jobs, at banks or in retail, for example, and are happiest if their employment feels fulfilling and meaningful. It's even better if it's also hideously busy. That way, between all the reward of it being meaningful, and the stress of being continually busy, they are highly motivated at work not to stop and waste time.
Outside of paid employment this person likes to feel everything they do has a useful purpose. This is the kind of person who doesn't watch much TV unless the program is either informative and educational or, if a drama or comedy, it is of some externally measured "high quality". You probably won't find this person watching "X-factor", "Funniest Home Videos" or "Border Security". No, they will instead be reading or doing something "useful" with their time upstairs on their laptop.
The delusional disorder comes in to play at this point, where there is often a great disparity between the TWDD sufferer's vague intentions, and what, in reality, pans out. Say, for example, the poor TWDD sufferer has vague intentions that in any of her spare time, she will write. Writing, like reading, is clearly useful, for reasons that I probably don't have to expound upon to you, dear reader. If you aim to write, then imagination, vocabulary, insight, interest - all of these words and more are required.
Take for example, a case where the TWDD sufferer has a 4 day weekend. She thinks to herself that this is heaven! It's enough time to do a. household chores b.work for her second job that always needs something done at home on the weekend, c. spending time with family and friends, and d. writing. Why, with that much time she may not only write 1, or 2 blog posts, but even start an essay or story to send out to a literary magazine, something she hasn't made time to do for over a year. The vague long term desire is that eventually she will start sending out so many pieces of writing that she will discover that she is now a freelance writer and can write all day long for payment.
Skip to day 4 of the 4 day weekend. Our TWDD sufferer has: eaten out, wandered up Chapel Street, been to 2 movies with partner and/or child, washed the cat vomit off the doona cover, done the grocery shopping, washed many sets of dishes and loads of laundry, pegged out said loads of laundry and brought them back in again, helped her daughter select a photo to enter into a competition and heard her read her book presentation for school, done some work for her second job, and stripped the sheets off the bed. All useful and necessary things, some of which were also very enjoyable.
She has also: on a sudden whim, spent nearly a whole day spring cleaning her daughter's room and then the storage space upstairs, throwing out lots of old odds and ends, and taking a huge bag of old toys to the Opportunity Shop. Read people's posts on Facebook and Twitter. Read other people's blogs. Read sections of the book she is currently reading. Watched an old episode of Get Smart. Suddenly on a whim, spent time filing a pile of photos saved on her laptop. Tried a few times to start a new post and not written anything that held her interest. It's 5pm on day 4 and tomorrow she'll be back at work. Some of these things were not really so necessary, and some, although useful, could be said to have been time wasting in view of the goal, which was to really spend some serious time writing.
Now, what happens to our TWDD sufferer when this occurs? Chronic Time Frustration kicks in, whereby she feels a huge sense of frustration that there is never enough time. She does not have enough time to get even a blog post written, let alone the essay or story that she just knows she could write if she had time. She gets grumpy and snappy because the day is coming to an end, dinner needs to be made, and somewhere inside her there is a brilliant post that she wanted to write and hasn't. Or an essay that she could have drafted, that might have eventually led to something being published. That might have eventually led to a change in career. But she hasn't achieved any of that because she wasted her time.
Fortunately, dear reader, the above is just a fictional example. As you can see, I am not the poor sod of a Time Waster that I used to illustrate my point, because I have managed to write a post, and it's only.....oh shite, it's 5.25pm and I need to make the dinner. Excuse me.
- Who's that girl?
At what point does sharing your life online become oversharing?
Well, Plinky - I think that point differs for everyone.
I'm actually a shy, and fairly private person - yet I write a blog, and a reasonably personal blog, at that. Go figure! How does that work?
Well, it is tricky, actually, because those of us who scribble away (figuratively speaking, of course, since what I'm actually doing is typing on a keyboard) at a blog generally write it because we really enjoy writing. And, as with any form of creative expression, there is a certain lack of stimulus if no-one is actually engaging with what I produce.
So I want an audience, of course. It was tempting, therefore, to tell my family and friends when I started blogging, in the hope that they would be so smitten with my witty, intelligent, thought-provoking writing that, after reading the first line, they would sign up to receive every post I wrote.
But the paradox for someone as private as me is that knowing who will read what I write causes me to be self-conscious what I say. So it's undoubtedly fortunate that when I made the announcement to a select group of friends that I had started a blog, most of them were honest enough about their interest in reading my blog (I like to think that it indicated their lack of interest in reading any blog) that they did not even bother to reply, let alone ever pretend to have read it. A response I infinitely preferred than someone pretending to have read it, or even worse, actually having read it and wondered what on earth I was on about, and then pretended to like it!
So there are actually only 2-3 people who read my blog and know who writes it. As it happens, I'm actually glad that is how it panned out. I'm pleased at the freedom that affords me. I'm able to approach writing a blog the way it should be approached, in my opinion - as an excercise in creating a good piece of writing, not an excercise in worrying about the image I present to people who know me.
Until recently, I avoided social media because it seemed like the place where people overshared. I shunned Facebook and Twitter, not because I had no interest in displaying my thoughts - heavens above, I love communicating my thoughts, that's why I have a blog - but because I didn't feel like those "platforms" were the place to display my thoughts. I actually worried that if I did join I'd be oversharing with the best of them.
Last year however, I got a second job, and one of my tasks was to set up a Facebook page for the organisation. In order to do so, I needed to first have my own account. Lo and behold, I was forced into joining Facebook!
I took to it with caution, (I take pride in having the World Record for the lowest amount of friends on Facebook ever, as I have not attempted to "friend" anyone I don't already see on a regular basis AND enjoy hanging out with) and then, more recently, I gained some courage and tried posting some witty comments. But my opinion of Facebook is only confirmed by my experience in the few months I've been on it. It's not the platform for someone interested in using writing to create a good sentence. I'm bored with Facebook. I'm bored with the updates posted multiple times a day by some friends because they are neither witty nor about issues that I am interested in. To me, that is oversharing - although their 400 other Facebook friends may not agree.
But this experience on Facebook served to peak my curiousity about Twitter, and about 3 weeks ago I finally gave in and joined Twitter. I approached Twitter differently, however. I created a fake name. I have told only one person that I have an account. I've started to "follow" people - none of whom are known to me personally, and all chosen on the basis that what they tweet is either witty, or intelligent and likely to be of interest to me. It is entirely different to Facebook. So far, it is more interesting to someone who likes writing and privacy. If I share my life here, I'm intending to do so with humour and anonymity. I will undoubtedly be editing it, but hopefully, for the sake of humour. I've started browsing other people's Twitter streams and found that there are some people doing quite creative things with 140 characters. 140 characters is a definite challenge for someone who can't write a post on her blog in under 800 words ! I wonder if there are other people who spend as long editing and refining their 140 characters on Twitter as I've done sometimes (often only to post it and then think of an improvement later on, of course!)
In the interests of privacy, I decided last week to change my user name on my blog to a fake name. This was partly because I am enjoying being anonymous on Twitter, and also because of the slight increase in subcribers on my blog recently. Clearly privacy is important to me, and the more people reading my blog regularly, the more I'm keen to retain my privacy!
So to me, almost any sharing of my life online has the potential to feel like oversharing, yet still I have the urge to share anyway. I can manage to feel more comfortable about doing that when it's done anonymously.
- Slow Train Coming
Can I put a qualifier on my answer? Yes, if public transportation THAT RAN EFFICIENTLY were available in my neighborhood, I would use it.
I'm lucky enough to live pretty close to the city and any inner suburb is about a half hour drive away at most. Which is lucky, because I don't like driving more than half an hour to get anywhere in the city, as mentioned in my previous blog post.
Here is one example of the inefficiency of Melbourne's public transport system. While it takes me 15 minutes to drive to work, it can take an hour and 15 to travel in by public transport. That makes it difficult to choose public transport over driving, for me.
In recent years - since starting a job that was not in, or walking distance from, the CBC, I rarely use public transport, because of the above mentioned expansion in my travel time. I don't enjoy getting up early for any reason, let alone rising an extra hour early, just to allow an extra hour to travel to work.
In Melbourne, our trainlines were built....um...a long time ago. If I was to draw a picture of the train lines in those days, I could draw a circle in the middle to represent Flinders Street Station, and then lines representing the lines out to the suburbs. It would look a little like the sun, with rays coming out of it, as drawn by a primary school child.
In those days, the outer suburbs probably took a long time to get to, but those same suburbs are now in the "Zone 1" (inner zone) area and take about 20 minutes to reach on a modern train, or even on the trains currently running on Melbourne's lines. The only change to the train system since it was first built is the City Loop. In 1981, this was a radical new system which allowed trains to travel underground to stations around the CBD!! (They may have got the idea from some little thing over in London).
Melbourne has continued to expand since those days, and now, what were little country towns 10 years ago are swallowed up and have become outer suburbs of Melbourne, but that basic rays--of-the-sun diagram has not changed. All that has happened regarding public transport is that country lines eventually became part of the metropolitan line.
Now, as any scientist can tell you, if you draw a basic sun-with-rays-coming-out-of-it diagram inside a circle, and then the circle expands and only change you make to your diagram is to tack a bit of length onto the already existing rays of the sun, that is very much like a model of the expansion of the universe.
What I'm saying, in case you haven't followed my dubious astronomical metaphor for our public transport system, is that, as the circle, (or blob-like shape) (that's the city) expands, and the length of the sun's rays (that's the train lines) is increased, there is increasingly more and more space between those rays (that's the outer suburbs that are miles away from any train lines). So to conclude my scientific hypothesis: just as the galaxies are rushing further and further away from one another at a speed that is increasing exponentially, so the outer suburbs of Melbourne are being pushed further and further away from the train lines, probably also at a speed that is increasing exponentially but has a long way to go before it reaches the speed of light.
As the city expands in all directions, (except into the bay, obviously) there are more and more suburbs popping up in the huge expanses between train lines. And so far, that seems to be how it remains. They have no currently existing train line either.
What is needed is a train system with lines that connect up at interchange points all over Melbourne the way they do in other, more travel-friendly cities. In Melbourne it's still often the case that the only way to get from A to B - for example from where I live, to where I work, is to go via C, which stands for the city. After 30 years, I think it's time that planners expand that radical City-Loop idea into loops all over the city that are not CBD-centric.
So I seem to have got off the track (that was a clever pun) a bit, since I began by talking about the inefficiency of the public transport system in Melbourne but ended up trying to draw a similarity between the expansion of the universe and the lack of public transport infrastructure in the outer suburbs. I don't even live in the outer suburbs and probably won't be travelling to any, any time soon. Certainly not by public transport anyway.
So let's just say, I like the idea of public transport, but in Melbourne it is just not efficient enough to be worth using if you are lucky enough to have another option.
- Why my brother died - we may never know
OK, so, to start with, this is not very imaginative of Plinky, since this very same prompt came up earlier this year. I know, because I answered it and you can read my answer on Plinky or here:
But I thought I'd respond again, firstly to say that my earlier post, about black holes and other things I don't know enough about, is one of my favourite posts. For no particular reason - I just really enjoyed writing it.
But secondly, I was prompted to respond because of the contrast in my outlook on life, caused by events that have occurred in the short time since that rather light-hearted post. Now what I'd like to learn more about is, why my younger brother died suddenly, 3 and a half months ago.
My brother was 33 and had no health problems. He died in his sleep on a Friday night in early September.
Now I know that, to you, a stranger, reading this, my brother is just an abstract idea. Even if he was alive, he would just be a faceless person mentioned in someone else’s blog. Dead, he is a faceless person mentioned in someone else’s blog, who died. I can’t, and don't, expect you to invest emotion in the fact that he is no longer around. But here's how it is for me.
I can still hear his voice. I can still see his broad, cheeky grin. I can still recall his laid-back, easy-going, good-natured presence, and how I loved his company. Just like the people that you know and love, every day for the last 33 years, I took it for granted that he was alive and would be for many more years, but suddenly, with no warning and no apparent reason or explanation, he was not here any more. When I was told that he had died, he literally vanished from my life – I never laid eyes on him again.
So naturally my parents, my other brothers and my sister and I had a huge shock. We've been waiting for the report from the autopsy, as if it might offer some answers to our confused questions, but it was not until the fortnight before Christmas that my parents finally heard from the coroner. They received a death certificate, which listed the cause of death as "inconclusive". They also received a letter outlining why it was inconclusive, and positing a probable cause of death, based on having excluded other causes. In other words, the forensic team were making an educated guess.
According to the letter, it is highly probable that the cause of death was a seizure, leading to suffocation. In regards to what caused the seizure, again, I assume, they could only make an educated guess. Since he was a perfectly healthy person with no history of any medical condition, and there is no history of seizures in our family, they focused on his lifestyle. They referred in their letter to a link between alcohol consumption and seizure. However, confusingly, they also sent a fact sheet about a little-known genetic condition that could cause seizures, and a letter saying that any siblings and close relatives should be referred for a check up, and finally, a letter asking for permission to have a sample of his blood (“no more than a tablespoon”) used in some medical trials in Sydney and Denmark.
These documents were handed to me to read on Christmas day. Having read over them, I remained as confused about what had caused his death as I had been before. I really couldn't decide whether the forensic team had reached a conclusion or not.
As it turns out, it seems science can’t answer everything either. This, of course, is not breaking news. Science is always about hypothesizing on the most likely explanation until it is proven to be untrue. So it seems we are left with a hypothetical explanation of what is most likely to have caused my brother to die that Friday night. In our minds, as time passes, that will become the definitive reason, as it is unlikely that is will ever be proven untrue.
But actually, truth be told, I don’t know that I really care after all. It was just something to focus on, in the hope of getting an answer, when there is so much that can’t be known or understood about someone you love dying suddenly.
To me, the much bigger issue is that my brother has died. Knowing what caused his death is not going to change that.
- I got by, with a little help from my friend
My best friend from childhood? Her name was Jane, and we met at kindergarten, both 4 years old.
We probably weren’t even friends there, since I was a timid and anxious child, while she was brazen and fearless. At kinder, she once stapled her own thumb and didn't cry! I don't actually recall the incident, I recall being told about it later - perhaps at the time I fainted in shock.
After kinder, we went to the small, local Catholic primary school together. After a shaky start in prep, which was basically a tumultuous year of fights between the 3 prep girls, Jane and I eventually became "best buddies". We were both academically smart, and usually rivalled one another for the top grades, but I guess what cemented the friendship was a shared a sense of humour.
Over the next few years we spent a lot of time at each other’s houses, and a lot of time laughing. Our quirky sense of humour was inadvertently the catalyst for another huge fight when, in grade 5, we wrote out the lyrics to a nonsensical song and put them into the letterbox of another girl in our grade. You may remember the song: "Flea. Flea fly. Flea fly flo. Vista. Coomala, coomala, coomala vista..." (Or something similar.) I think we were just delighted with the jivey, jazzy, "beat" or “scat” feel of those crazy lyrics.
Somehow, what we thought was absurd and amusing, was interpreted by our less imaginative schoolmate as a declaration of hostility. To our complete astonishment, we arrived at school the next day to discover that none of the grade 5 OR grade 6 girls were talking to us! Primary school can be a perplexing time.
Jane is responsible for my love of music – I’d go to her house to watch Countdown! because I wasn’t allowed to watch it at home! She was also behind me attending my first rock concert – The Divinyls – at the tender age of 15. When her family moved to Melbourne in year 10, I began spending a lot of time in Melbourne, at all the appropriate places (any pubs and nightclubs that accepted V-line student concession cards for ID.)
Once, at the National Gallery, it occurred to us how halarious it would be to hijack a wheelchair and wheel one girl around. We did so, crying with laughter the entire time. Another time, we somehow ended up being the only two passengers left, at night, on a suburban train, that shunted into a railyard and switched off all its lights. Luckily we were able to open the doors and exit the train, despite laughing so hard that we were doubled over.
But what I will always be grateful for is that, when I finished year 12, Jane made it possible for me to achieve my life's goal, which was to get the hell out of my home town and move to Melbourne! She convinced her parents that I could board with her family. She understood my need to get out of the country town we’d grown up in, and she knew that I couldn’t afford to any other way. For my first year in Melbourne, I paid board, and lived with her and her family, out in the south eastern suburbs. They were generous to give me that opportunity for an affordable transition. 12 months later I was renting in the inner suburbs.
Despite all of that, we finally reached the anti-climax that many friendships end on: we simply drifted apart. By our mid twenties, we had no other friends in common, so we got together less and less, socialising instead in our circles of separate friends. There came a time when I noticed that it was always me who called to suggest a get together, so I thought I'd wait for her to call. She never did.
Of course, I could have called her, but in my mid-twenties I thought I was being very mature by accepting that we were no longer friends, and letting go without sentimentality. I could see that our friends were very different - mine were all at art school, hers were studying commerce and law. At that time, when socialising was a full time occupation, it seemed quite clear to me that if 6 whole months could go by without contact, then you are not really friends. (Now that I’m older, 6 months is nothing, and I have a number of friends with whom I only catch up once or twice in a year – everyone is busy!)
We’ve bumped into one another since, and had friendly chats, and I wish her well. Like siblings, we have a shared history and knowledge of each other’s family life when we were kids, and that’s a connection that can’t be taken away. But as often happens, our lives have moved on in separate directions.
Still, she was a big part of my childhood, and we had some great times.