I Want It All

fiona

This month, I’ve been asking people to nominate me for a Cosmo Lifestyle Influencer Award. I’ve asked people for nominations like this before and normally, it goes something like this:

*shy wave* Oh, hello, I was thinking, er, maybe, if you’re not too busy, you might nominate me for this little thing. *runs away*

I cocoon myself in relatable, cutesy self deprecation because god forbid I own up to actually wanting things, or worse, thinking I deserve things. Writing is a bit of a funny thing. It’s something I do for fun because I like to be creative and it helps me to work through my thoughts and figure out how I really feel about things. When I write, mostly I’m writing for me. But it would be an absolute barefaced lie for me to say that I don’t care if anyone reads my stuff. Because when I write, I’m also writing for you. I write because I feel like I have something worthwhile to say. I write because I think that maybe my words will make someone feel less alone, less weird, less hopeless. I write because I want to make people feel things. But when I admit that, I’m also admitting that I think I have the talent to do that.

There’s a blogger who I’ve followed for a long time, who has just landed a regular column in Grazia magazine. In part, this happened because she is wildly talented. But mainly, it happened because she spent three full days putting together a proposal for her column, including three sample columns, so that the editors would get a feel for her voice. She spent three days putting together a package that said “I want this. I deserve this. And here’s why you absolutely can’t disagree.” She completely, unabashedly backed herself. And it paid off.

I spent my first year in London working as a temp. I interviewed for a whole bunch of permanent jobs and got turned down for every one of them. Do you know why? Because I prized my likeability over my ability to do the job and saw the two as totally incompatible. After a year of wondering whether I’d still have a job next month, I got angry. I was invited to interview for the job I was doing on a permanent basis for the third time and this time, I went in with the attitude of “Here’s why you absolutely cannot afford not to hire me.” One of the interview questions was “If your team mates were to describe you in one word, what would it be?” The first time, I answered “enthusiastic”. This time, I answered “competent”. They offered me the job on the spot.

I sometimes wonder how much earlier I could have gotten the job if I’d been less embarrassed about owning my shit and admitting that I actually thought I was up to it. Because here’s the thing: self deprecation is all well and good on Twitter or with your friends but if you’re going for a job, pitching an article or asking folks to nominate you for an award, people have no reason not to believe you if you tell them that you’re mediocre. It takes balls to ask for the things you think you deserve. It takes balls to commit to working hard for something. It takes balls to take yourself seriously. Because sometimes, you do all that and it still doesn’t pan out. But really, what else is there? So here we are. I’m owning up. I want people to read my words, and I think I’m talented enough to achieve that. I want to be published in lots of different places, and I think I’m talented enough to achieve that. I want to write an amazing book, and I think I’m talented enough to achieve that. It’s scary, admitting that you have the ability to do something, because then you have no excuse not to work your ass off and do it. But I’m over getting in my own damn way. I’m finally convinced that I deserve the things I want.

Now, to work on convincing everybody else.

The Numbers Game

I don’t know where my love of numbers came from. It certainly didn’t come from a love of maths. As a kid, I was good at maths but as the result of a long, hard slog. It never came naturally and even now, mental maths sends me into a mild panic. But counting things? That came so naturally that I barely noticed it happening.

bullet journal

I know how many steps I’ve taken today. I know how many books I’ve read this year. I know how many years it will take me to pay off my student loan.

All good things to know.

I also know that if I get to my bus stop by 5:15, I’ll probably get home by 6. I know that if the traffic is heavy and the bus doesn’t round a certain corner by 5:30, I probably won’t. Sometimes, if it’s close and I’m not sure whether the bus will make the corner, my heart starts to pound. I panic, just a little. That two minute space between “before 6” and “after 6” becomes huge and important.

I know how much money I’d need to retire right now and how many years it would take me to save it at my current rate – about 300.

Sometimes I find myself counting steps or seconds, just because.

If Niall goes back to Ireland to stay with his family, it’s more than likely that I know how many hours it’ll be before he walks back through the door. I refresh the airport arrivals page, I check train times, I memorize bus routes. I miss him when he’s gone, of course, but more than that, I just want to know.

Whether I’m working on a manuscript for National Novel Writing Month or watching my fundraising total for Race for Life rise, monitoring graphs, hitting targets and working out averages fills me with utter glee. And I don’t think I’m the only one. People are using Fitbits to count their steps and track their sleep. They’re downloading apps which log how much water they’ve drunk and sprout cartoon flowers accordingly. An iPhone is an information lover’s dream, crunching the random strings of numbers that make up our day to day lives and spitting out graphs and charts that we peer at, hoping they’ll reveal some larger truth to us.

Because that’s what it’s all about, really. If I can count things, if I can quantify them, then I can understand them. And if I can understand them, maybe I can control them. I remember my maths teacher taking great delight in my love for Sudoku puzzles but puzzles aren’t really about numbers at all. They’re about order. They’re about logical, discernible patterns. The knowledge that if you follow the rightt steps, you will reach a neat, satisfying, correct conclusion.

I’ve always liked to know things. I’m sure my parents still have traumatic flashbacks of that trademark children’s refrain – But why? I’ve never liked being unsure. Being twenty-four years old and not really knowing what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, in a time where it feels like the world is spiraling ever further out of control, I think I crave that comforting sense of completion that comes at the end of a riddle. Of course I know that there’s no blueprint to life, no magic formula that leads to happiness. Logically, I know this. But still I crunch my little numbers, hoping that if I think hard enough or look at them in a certain way, the pattern will reveal itself. The world is vast and pregnant with possibilities, every one more unpredictable than the last. Sometimes things happen for no reason at all. Sometimes things are bitterly unfair. Sometimes you try your very hardest and it doesn’t work out anyway. I’m not religious, but I understand why many people are. Religion is a pattern of its own, assuring people that somewhere, someone has a larger plan. That it’ll all be okay. That people will get what they deserve, good or bad, in the end. Some people have God. I have numbers.