A bit of initial admin: you may have noticed my new blog theme! I designed this based on a few ideas swirling around my head, hailing predominantly from the style of tumblr themes I used to like. I'm quite proud of the way it turned out and I think I've managed to blend cute fonts (and an Animal Crossing themed background) with a slightly more professional look than I'd usually go for. Let me know what you think!
I've handed in another essay, which means I'm down to my last one! It's for a criminology module on state crime which is something I've touched on a lot before (largely during my dissertation research) so I'm not too worried about understanding the content - rather I'm (perpetually) concerned about how much I can actually get done before the deadline. I did manage to get a further extension, though, and whilst this means I may not be able to graduate until December, I've decided I'm fine with that. It's not like a July ceremony would be happening anyway!
My Nintendo Switch finally arrived, so naturally I've been playing a lot of New Horizons. I've been watching a couple of videos on Youtube, trying to settle on some design ideas. I've been swayed towards the zen-fence setups people seem to be using (going for Japanese suburbs I guess?) and it's been fun working to unlock all of the different features. I did do a bit of initial time travelling (sue me) to unlock things like Nook's Cranny and the like, but I'm sticking to regular time now as it feels a bit more worthwhile. That, plus the fact I often lose hours and hours to time travelling to unlock different features and then repeating the process ad infinitum.
Speaking of Nintendo, the new Paper Mario trailer has been released! It looks pretty exciting, although I'm hoping it has some more Thousand Year Door and even Super Paper Mario vibes - i.e. with more focus on storyline, characters and in-jokes than relying too hard on bog-standard platformer play (which I find really boring and I think was a large reason why the last two games paled in comparison). A problem I (and many a reddit thread) have is the constant fourth-wall breaking of the last couple of games, where the 'paper' element is referred to explicitly and isn't just a design feature of the game that is only subtly mentioned. I enjoyed the subtle humour in the older games and I think that's what made them a bit more timeless and age-universal. I do like the sound of the origami element to the new game, though - it seems like it could be somewhat dark and there are cult vibes that seem to be part of the story. Hopefully I won't be disappointed! It's coming out in July so that's something to look forward to - check out the trailer below:
I'm really excited to have some time to devote properly to playing games and spending time on myself that isn't academia related. Don't get me wrong - I have really enjoyed studying a lot of what I've done at university (especially the pop culture module I've just finished, as well as political economy and parliamentary processes) and I'll be taking away a myriad of skills from the whole experience. It's all bittersweet, mind. I've said this to death, I know, but the last four years have been very turbulent for me and I've hit some of my lowest lows. I've been prescribed antidepressants, anxiety meds and also sought out counselling a couple of times. Even during my industry year, I took part in (both as a session facillitator and a group member) a lot of peer support work and discovered a lot of the complexities of my own mental health and neurological condition. I've also been referred for an ADHD assessment, which would really explain a lot of what my everyday life is like. This post by InvisibleUp is something I really found solace in recently and sums up a lot of the problems I have/ways I tend to work. It was actually quite moving to read at first because, although I was already suspicious that I might have ADHD, this is probably what pushed me to seek medical help. Speaking with a friend who was also diagnosed as an adult has been really helpful, too, and it's surprising how many otherwise conspicious things we have in common. I'm just waiting for another phone appointment at the moment, since the assessment service is on hiatus due to Miss Rona (BSc), but hopefully things should get moving in the near future.
With this in mind, I've decided, over the course of the last year, not to pursue further education any time soon. I also don't see myself applying for many grad jobs or professional positions in the fields I'm most interested in (e.g. trade unionism, policy research/admin, hell - even anything political) until next Summer at least. My focus is to learn to drive and maybe get some more leadership experience (if a supervisor position comes up in work, I'll probably go for that). I also struggle to keep up with a lot of the day-to-day goings on and online
discourse (*insert sideshow Bob shudder*) regarding Labour and politics generally. Which is sad because I do really care about a lot of these issues and I do have a lot to say, but I can't help but feel I'm so detached and have relatively little time to devote to having a constant stream of knowledge about specific people and organisational drama that I'm *too* peripheral to it all. That being said, I am about to graduate with a Politics degree so I guess we'll see.
I think another thing that puts me off is the culture. Mostly the interpersonal culture. I only ever attended two proper conferences when I was a (there's that shudder again) Labour Student, but that was enough to make me really reconsider what I wanted to do. I met some amazing people and saw some amazing projects underway, but I can't help but feel that student politics, and a lot of party politics more generally, is so detached from everyday life. Now, I'm a big believer in that old feminist mantra of "the personal is political" (I realise I'm using a very vague and simplistic interpretation of it here, but the point stands) and I think there's something to be said about being caught up in internal disputes. That being said, I think there's a lot of bad faith and pretense in the politics I've seen firsthand (as well as in online circles). Firstly, the constant claims of 'socialism' by centrist figures just makes me gag just a little bit. Whether you're brushing conversations about migrants' rights under the rug, pandering unquestionably to far-right rhetoric (on the basis that they're 'working class concerns', albeit, *ahem*, purely white ones) or paying lip-service to trade unionism despite supporting the policies that have harmed workers/collective bargaining the most (I'm looking at you, Blair apologists - I also just wrote a dissertation on this if you need some receipts). It's not to say that being concerned about a palatable message is completely out of the question, but I'll be damned if it turns out that many of these people have actually taken a second to *learn* about what it is they're supposedly standing for.
Which leads me onto another point. I think this goes for the right, left and everything in between. Now, I'm hardly an encyclopaedia myself, so I do broadly try to self-reflect and critically analyse my own opinions. But it has to be said - in the media, in party politics, in the news and even just among online discussion circles: everybody loves (and I mean LOVES) to have an opinion on things they clearly know very little about. I don't mean broadly supporting policies or statements you're not well versed in the finer details of. I mean this constant tendency to act like you have broad knowledge on a range of issues/histories that you've quite obviously never researched outside of the first paragraph of Wikipedia, or a quick headline on the midday news. I'll admit it's difficult when academic knowledge is so inaccessible (both in terms of the language used and the unruly cost it carries), but it's one thing to admit you don't completely understand something but are trying. It's a whole other ball game to actively go around pontificating as if you have any experience or knowledge of something.
I think this second point is something that's deeply entrenched in wider society. I think it probably comes in part with British (or Western) exceptionalism, although I can't say I've ever studied it myself. Even just casual conversations about immigration, mental/physical health, welfare benefits ("the scroungers get ten mercedes for free!") and a range of other issues. A big one at the moment is people assuming they're experts in wages, the cost of living and rent payments during the pandemic. It feels like everyone assumes they're experts in these things because they heard from so-and-so's sister's dog who's mate works at the tax office that this is how X works. It's the same with hearing things on the news or reading things in the paper. A lot of the left love to characterise right wingers as people who absorb everything they read in the paper, but I find that to be a bit simplistic (and probably a little classist to boot). I think there's something deeper going on - there's an assumption that you don't need to actually know anything about an issue or topic to debate these things as though you do. Note - this isn't me at all saying that you can't discuss something without PHD-level knowledge (we'd all be toast in that scenario), but I think it's worth bearing in mind that it might be useful to actually know about something before asserting your opinion aggresively on the twitter. Or even screaming at retail staff about things you absolutely haven't a clue about.
I, like many, have my problems with politics and the way it's handled and discussed. I don't claim to be a saint and I can't say I've always had the best take on things straight away. I do think, though, that this speaks to the wider idea that people need space to grow and reflect on things they may very well have changed their mind about. That doesn't mean we should just accept what people say without due criticism, but I think we have to remember that learning is a process, as is unlearning. What I don't think helps is vox-popping people who clearly have quite aggressive views and/or don't really understand the inner workings of an issue (perhaps through no fault of their own). In the Labour context, MPs citing "legitimate concerns" that are actually very harmful, is doing no good. We can debate and explain things to people without plastering far-right hatred on the evening news. And I think a lot of up-and-coming journalists, staffers and politicians would do well to remember this.
There are millions more problems I have, but I'm not going to lay them all out right now. The handling of the leaked Labour report has been woeful to say the least, but that's ongoing and I guess it's something I'll have to play by ear. I've also been really put off by a lot of other discourses (is that a word? It is now) just based on the clear contempt a lot of people have for women. It's not a can of worms I'm going to open right now (especially because I think there are plenty of actual women who can sum these issues up far better than I), but it's definitely something that's worth reading up on. Overall I'm just glad to be able to focus on practical things like saving up for driving lessons, mental health support and my relationship (which is GREAT, by the way).
Speaking of James, you may have read in my previous posts that he's taken the plunge (shoot me for this pun. go on. do it) into the aquarist hobby. We now have three tanks, and the Corydoras catfish have had babies! At some point I'll take a video (they're a bit too small and zippy for my phone camera atm) and upload it, but the fry are currently thriving in a smaller tank (along with some Cherry Shrimp) and the way they wiggle around in search of food is super cute. The various terrariums are also looking excellent, and the addition of neon lighting is giving the house some great 2014 Tumblr vibes. Which as we all know by now, is my whole identity.
For now, that's all. I just need to get this last essay out of the way and then I can go full time at work. I've been getting a couple more regular shifts as a runner amidst the pandemic, which suits me well as the job is quite active and there's always something new to deal with. My colleagues are also great and it's nice to be in an environment with people of different ages that I get on well with. There's often a real sense of community (despite the struggles of retail) and it's something I really need right now.
In terms of upcoming posts, I'd like to write some more political stuff (on themes like work, language, identities, pop culture, queer issues) as well as some more explicit mental health stuff (i.e. obsessive thoughts/compulsions, comfort spending, body issues and my own identity). What do you think? Is there anything you've got a burning desire to hear my take on? (probably not, who even am I?, you may ask). Once lockdown lifts, I'd like to travel abroad and might post something about that, and I really need to go to some more gigs and festivals. Parklife being cancelled this year is absolutely the bane of my life. Anyway, thanks for reading. If you haven't already, give my food blog a gander. I'm going to upload a really nice ramen I made at some point, so keep an eye out for that (or don't, maybe you hate pictures of food). Right now the sun's out and I need to go and spend some time gazing wistfully out of a window. When will my positive bank balance return from the war?
Thanks to Loïc Fürhoff for the header - the photo is of a university building in Portugal.