I still want to do all the things

Hello once again,

I have too much to do and not enough time to do it in, a somewhat ironic statement considering churning out a 400-word blog post apparently takes me upwards of a week these days.

For instance, this summer I want to, in no particular order, finally finish my novel, get a job, massively expand The Game Shelf, complete literally all of my third-year uni work before September, save money, buy about £400 worth of clothes, get bigger and stronger for football, get more toned and agile for karate, get thinner and curvier to fit into dresses, see my parents, not move home and beat the entirety of Skyrim for my dissertation. One of those things is worth a summer project, and it’s insane to expect myself to do all of those, especially considering some of them are mutually exclusive.

But here’s the thing: I refuse to appreciate the idiocy of such a to-do list, and refuse to prioritise the things on it. I won’t cut anything from the list because that would be accepting that some tasks, and by extension some people, are less important than others. Of course, some are more important than others, but I’m not mentally tough enough to dismiss, say, the getting stronger for football thing, because it’ll make life harder for my teammates.

I’ll just shoot for everything and complete nothing in the time-honoured style.

Which sounds like I’m barreling towards disaster – in the past this has led to tragedy after tragedy – but I’m fairly relaxed about getting all of these done. Just maybe not this summer.

I’ve been seeing the end of my degree as the end of my life for too long now, and that’s not really a helpful perspective; when I graduate I won’t be some shrivelled, physically and mentally exhausted shell, but a 21-year-old with a solid CV and a thousand and one interests. While university provides a framework for a lot of these interests to take shape – classes help me make friends, sports clubs help me keep fit, societies and magazines help me write – the removal of uni won’t remove those things altogether. There’s a pretty good dodgeball club in London I could play for when I graduate, for instance, and I can’t be the only person who like writing about games in this city.

So I won’t get a great body, loads of money and flexible groins all in one Summer. But I won’t have to.

Creative Slumps

Hello once again,

Yes, I’m still here. I’m trying not to flip between the two extremes of writing every day to writing on no days, so I’m writing a post about feeling unable to write while feeling unable to write.

Writer’s block, creative slumps, written fatigue, whatever the Hell we want to call it, it’s a phenomenon that’s affected everyone to put pen to paper and keystrokes to screens, so I doubt I have anything particularly new to add to this discussion.

But one relatively original aspect of this literary lethargy is how it’s affected so many aspects of my life. When I was younger, writing was my escape from the mundanity and relentless boredom of school, where subjects like maths and science, at the GCSE level, encouraged blind fact-learning, rather than creative thought. Writing was never boring, it was always the thing I did for fun.

A few years later, when I started blogging and writing some journalistic pieces for the ultra-serious world of student magazines, writing occupied this weird middle ground of being a big enough part of my life that I could be burned out, but not quite big enough that I could ever fully get into it. I still had to study, and go to work, and figure out how the hell to cook vegan meals.

Now, writing is edging towards being the one big thing in my life, encompassing The Game Shelf, a dozen university magazines, social media and my novel that I’m actually still working on; but the weights of university are still there. I can’t abandon studying entirely because I’m still a student.

This is where problems arise; as I encounter the creative slumps all writers do, this has a knock-on effect on both the platforms I write for, and my life outside of writing. First, if I’m struggling to get a match report out, it knocks my ability to write fiction, or blog posts, or Game Shelf pieces, and slowly all of these mechanisms grind to a halt. Then, my studies suffer as I settle into feeling stressed that I can’t write, and angry that I’ve not written, and afraid that I won’t be able to write in the future. Writing is a big deal for me, and now it’s starting to play with my emotions too.

Obviously, this can be dangerous, but I’m also having the most fun I’ve ever had with my work. I write for a magazine that is mine, and that I’m insanely proud of; every dumb tweet and dodgeball email brings me closer to my preferred, and even likely, career of juggling a few social media posts while working on novels in my spare time. There are structures in place – The Game Shelf, my social media roles on societies – that provide exactly the backbone and linear progression that I’ve personally lacked for years, and that many ‘creative’ people lack in general. Things are starting to fall into place, dragging my mood along with it; when I’m down it sucks for me, and the poor bastards I call friends who have to put up with me, but it’s totally worth it.

Hopefully I’ll snap out of this soon and start writing regularly again.

Until then,
Casey

I missed playing football

Afternoon folks,

I’ve not played football – American football, that is, which I’ll be hereafter referring to as ‘football’ because it annoys me endlessly that one word in that phrase ought to be capitalised, but the other oughtn’t – in a month, maybe longer. I’ve been injured and sad and busy and had a thousand other problems, so I’ve not had a chance to be strong-armed to the face repeatedly by large people; and I’ve missed it.

I think it’s easy to overthink things, and I do this a lot. Football became, in many ways, a chore: playing the damn game means you have to lug loads of kit around with you; you get cold and muddy and need to spend three hours showering afterwards; you worry that you’ll forget your assignments and let a receiver burn you for an 80-yard touchdown. And while these are all valid concerns – particularly when compared with sports like dodgeball which only require trainers and some reflexes – they don’t subtract from the fact that the game is just really good fun.

I often worry that I’m not doing things that are important enough, and I get stressed out when I’m not working on a project with a clear end goal; it’s not enough for me to like games, I need to write about them in a way that can be gloated about on a CV too. I see quite a few of my sports in this way, dodgeball as a way to actually stretch myself socially, karate as a chance to be the society president and have actual responsibility, and without such a lofty goal for football, it’s easy to forget why I’m playing in the first place.

It’s not like there aren’t goals for football – we have our big game against King’s next weekend – but a lot of these are communal, or would involve me in support roles. And, honestly, I struggle to not be at the centre of things. I grew up studying in an environment that made me think I was the best, and many of the projects I start myself put me in a position of absolute authority almost by default. I know this is narcissistic and cynical and hugely unfair on my friends, but these are the kinds of thoughts I’ve been relapsing into recently, which have stopped me from enjoying football; I’d reason that if I individually wasn’t winning, there’d be no point.

But this is, of course, nonsense, and it’s a pattern of thoughts I’ve been trying to cut out of my life, not just my fledging football career.

So I’m looking forward to next week’s game; not because I want to single-handedly win the damn thing (gods know I’m nowhere near good enough to do it anyway), but because I want my team to do well.

And it’s a frakking great game.

Casey

The Dread Spectre of Social Awkwardness

Hi again,

First up yes, I didn’t post for a few days. Yes, I’m still the same person who sustained a 150-odd daily post streak last year.

I realised, however, that forcing myself to write is never a good thing; the last few days I was feeling sad, and instead of putting on a happy or upbeat face to write a quirky blog post, I thought eating Oreos and playing Civ V would be a less painful exercise. And, sure enough, I’m now feeling good again, so am getting back to blogging. This isn’t to say that writing in general is destructive when I’m feeling down – the opposite is true, in fact – but writing in this manner, on a personal blog that aims to be amusing most of the time, requires me to be confident in myself, and feel good enough to want to make jokes. If one of these conditions isn’t met, the posts, and the overall blog, will suffer; a lot of the bitchier, more aggressive posts on my last blog came from me writing from a position of sadness and fear, and in those moments anger is a comforting substitute for a real solution.

So there may not be posts absolutely every day on here, but I’m feeling better as a result; if the choice is a blogging streak or my mental health, I’m sorry WordPress, but you’re not winning that one.

Now, let us talk about social awkwardness, a topic analysed, laughed at and cried over by literally everyone to have ever booted up a computer and stumbled waywardly onto the homepage of YouTube, Reddit, or even just Facebook. Some people are afraid of awkwardness, others wear it as a badge of quirky, indie honour, others despise it as the result of an increasingly oversensitive society; and there are a million more opinions held by a billion more people.

My interpretation of this much-analysed social phenomenon is that it’s more of an event than a state of being; people aren’t socially awkward in the way that they’re friendly or anxious, but suffer from socially awkward events in the way that they experience memorably events and painful events.

For instance, today I locked eyes for half a nanosecond with someone who I think is from my course but honestly I couldn’t tell; they smiled at me – so we must know each other from somewhere – and I think I recognised them from the glimpse I got, but I can’t really say.

Now, I would call this a socially awkward situation, but I’d not say that I’m socially awkward. The awkwardness comes from my inability to remember people’s faces, the fact that I struggle to talk to strangers or people I don’t know very well, and the speed of the entire exchange that meant the whole thing was over before I had a chance to respond to it. These traits prevented me from smiling back, or stopping this person to chat about it.

You may call the combination of these traits ‘social awkwardness’ as a trait itself, but socially awkward situations can arise from so many personal traits that I’d find that difficult to do. A situation can be awkward because you’re shy, or not feeling like talking, or distracted by something else, or afraid of that person, or you make a mistake in remembering who they are and what they do, or an infinite number of other very specific behaviours.

To simplify all of this into ‘social awkwardness’ is an oversimplification that I think can be very harmful; I’ve spent a lot of my life not talking to people, or being afraid of sending emails to teachers or calling doctors and dentists, and when I found the Internet and its social awkwardness-blaming culture, I found false comfort. I placed myself in the ‘Irreversibly Socially Awkward’ category, which was comforting for a time, but then I realised I was still unable to make new friends, or keep old ones, or engage in people professionally, so this newfound label didn’t really help. I may have gone too far the other way now – breaking down each of my behaviours and mannerisms to identify which of the rainbow of Sims 4 traits I best personify – but at least I know how I’m flawed in more detail. I know that I used to be very dismissive of other people’s opinions, which I’ve tried to correct in the last eighteen months; I used to treat people with disrespect when they talked about something they liked rather than humouring my by feigning an interest in something I liked, which I’ve also worked on. I’ve not corrected these negative traits entirely, and I have a myriad of others that I probably don’t even realise, but I think I’m a more tolerable and tolerant person than I was two years ago; than I was six months ago, even.

So while diagnosing yourself as socially awkward can be a relief, it’s not a solution as far as I can tell. It’s a cultural phenomenon too broad to ever be improved upon by itself, so I would encourage breaking it down into smaller traits that can be managed, or altered, or unlearned altogether.

The more harmful traits I remove, the less the Dread Spectre of Social Awkwardness hangs over me; unless I lock eyes with an acquaintance in the library, of course.

I have a laptop charger

Howdy,

I almost wrote ‘JP Casey’ in bold at the top of this post; thirty-odd articles identically-formatted over on The Game Shelf have started taking their toll on me. I wasn’t even thinking about it; my fingers just went for CMD-B and ‘J’.

While formatting might be tedious and laborious for most people, I rather enjoy fiddling with alignments and spellings and layouts; it’s one of several mundane things I quite like. Another one is having a charger for one’s laptop.

You see, recently, my laptop charger broke. I’m certain it was the charger – I could charge my laptop with other identical chargers, and other functional computers wouldn’t be charged by that charger – so once I had isolated the problem, lobbed it haphazardly into a waste paper basket and spent a million quid on a new one, I faced a problem. How was I to use my computer without a charger? How was I to play Civ V when the battery would drop from 100% to 40% within 35 minutes of playing?

The answer came in the form of my flatmate, who let me borrow their charger until mine arrived. But even this was an imperfect solution; while I shall forever be eternally grateful to this angelic individual for their altruism, this solution did require a bit of schedule-jigging to operate.

‘Oh, you can’t use it then because I’ll be out all day.’

‘Can I have it overnight then?’

‘How will I get it in the morning?’

‘Take it from my room before you head out.’

‘But that’s at six! What if I wake you?’

These were the exchanges that dogged my attempts to use electricity over the past few days.

The upshot of all this is that I realised how important small things are; the mundane are mundane not because they’re devoid of value, but because they are so valuable that we need use them all the time. Mundane things are really spectacular things so spectacular that we can’t live without them.

Without a grey cable with a current running through it – a device not considered ‘groudbreaking’  in at least three generations – I couldn’t write. I couldn’t submit any work, nor could I edit it. I couldn’t translate Boethius, or play games, or watch videos, or do much of anything related to the Internet. That cable is one of the most important things in my life, and it took losing it to make me realise this.

Now, I’m not going to go overboard and start punching the air whenever I successfully plug in a charger, with my newfound appreciation of how bloody cool that is, but I think it’s important to be grounded. My aspirations involve novel-writing and game-teaching and relationship-forging, when 99% of ‘living’ consists of wrestling with laundry and remembering to pay bills.

And some of that smaller stuff is cool, most of it sucks, but all of it is important.

Casey

*touch*

Hello all,

I like touching things.

Ahem.

I was making some notes on poetry today, and these were annotation-type notes, colourful scribbles and circles dragged across a page of verse. I’ve not made these kinds of notes since year thirteen, when we’d be given a big anthology of poetry and be expected to trawl through it for the exam like searching for a needle in a stack of slightly larger and more painful needles.

University, however, appears to not believe in anthologies as a general rule. All my other notes on verse have been made on lined paper, which requires the painstaking process of writing-out quotes of value rather than simply underlining them. There’s also the far less important point that having the poem printed in front of you makes it easier to get a handle on the geography of the poem, but it’s mostly the I-can’t-be-bothered-to-copy out quotes thing.

Most of the work at uni is conducted on computers, as is to be expected in this century. But there’s a glaring lack of tangible resources, and using them is often unweildly, or just difficult: handouts might be printed out for your convenience, but you’ll probably just be directed to some dark, unnavigable corner of Moodle instead; seminars take on a weirdly Wall-E-esque feel as students peer over the tops of their laptops to register the existence of their peers, before scuttling back behind their screens to their Word documents and Football Manager windows. And this isn’t a holier-than-thou boast (honest), as I do it too; this is merely an observation that for a course that was, until say twenty years ago, conducted almost entirely on paper, it’s alarming how quickly such tangible media have been phased out.

The obvious exception to this is the library, a wealth of ideas and confusing Middle English verse printed on actual sheets that one can touch and spill coffee over and attempt to sneak back to the reshelving box without alerting the nearest librarian to the new caffeinated aroma emanating from them. Honestly, one of the reasons that I love the library isn’t that it’s quiet or “feels” like the place to do work, but that it’s a place of learning being literally at your fingertips, rather than everything being wrapped up in the ether of the Internet. I love the Internet, but it always feels more random and spontaneous than reading a book with a single topic, written by someone with a particular goal in mind.

Also, places like libraries remind me of my Sixth Form days, when I was at my most focused and academically productive.

I think that’s why I prefer some artistic media to others. Painting is fun, but I’m less interested in that because the intellectual and artistic merits of it can be somewhat diluted by the fact that you’re gonna hang that painting behind some glass in a corridor somewhere and only use it to show your acquantances how bloody cultured you are. Meanwhile, books are a thing that must be held, and manipulated with the hands; there’s even a certain amount of challenge in deriving meaning from a book, as ideas must be interpreted and, in some cases, language deciphered to get to the heart of the piece. It’s no surprise that my favourite medium, therefore, is the video game, a form that demands engagement from the audience to reveal its secrets, and is entirely meritocratic in its approach; if you want to fully understand what Golden Sun has to teach us about perspective, you’ve got to play both games in their entirety yourself.

While the information era has brought far more advantages than disadvantages – not least the practical concern that if we print much more crap on physical paper there will literally be zero trees left on the planet – there’s something about physical media that excites me. It might be the nostalgia of reading books as a kid before the Internet was really a thing that children had access to, or my scholarly ideal of sitting in an office, drowning in Old Icelandic manuscripts and Skyrim players’ guides.

Either way, I got to hold my latest seminar prep in my hands, and it felt great.

Casey

I’m too old for this

Hello,

I play dodgeball, and one of my signature moves, if you like, is to drop to the floor and flatten myself against it to avoid oncoming throws. It works very well, especially against high throws, and I’m agile enough to be able to pull it off fairly regularly.

But I’m starting to suffer as a result of it.

When I started playing eighteen or so months ago, I could crash to the floor and bounce back up several times a game, and be no worse off; but a year and a half of being punched in the face at karate, slammed at American football, grabbed at handball, and having had my knees, ankles and hips slowly ravaged by walks and runs, I’m no longer as resilient as I was. Now, I’ll slam to the ground and make my hip sore, or collapse awkwardly over an ankle and it’ll bug me for the next week.

I know there are steps I can take to combat this – stopping the body-slam dodges, applying creams and apothecatic mixtures to my body, wearing braces and bandages – but I don’t really have the time or the interest in taking these steps. It won’t take much effort to strap up an ankle before playing, but I like darting out the door in my normal clothes fifteen minutes before a session starts, playing in a t-shirt then wandering back home and settling into an essay without showering or eating. It’s how I’ve always approached sports – although I’ve had to abandon the no-shower principle since starting to roll around in the mud of Regent’s Park for the sake of my American football team – and until I’m horrifically injured, I honestly don’t see myself making a change.

In the past I’ve always relied on my body to be naturally good at things, which may be a somewhat ironic statement coming from a type one diabetic with Osgood-Schlatter syndrome and dodgy eyes. I’ve always been able to bounce back from injuries and fatigues to play and train day-in day-out, and I’ve had a good enough metabolism to be able to eat my body weight in chips every other day and not put on weight. But as my metabolism starts to melt away and my body starts to break down – both of which have happened, by the way – I’ll need to start caring about my body and take steps to look after it.

I’ll add it to the list of summer projects.

Casey

I improved a dish

Evening folks,

I make no secret of the fact that I’m terrible with food. Be it down to my inability to taste (I don’t have a sense of smell so I can’t really taste much of anything), or my apathy towards everything other than playing Madden and translating Old English, I’ve just never got into food. I’ve never really liked the eating of it, the making of it, or the discussion of it. Some of my friends, meanwhile, are both very good cooks and very interested in food, so my pathetic attempts to nourish myself often resemble a small puppy trying to excavate an archaeological site alongside a small armada of mechanical digging contraptions; I deserve a few pitiful pats on the head, but little more.

However, today was somewhat of a watershed moment. I’ve enjoyed a vegan garlic pasta recipe for a while now – this one, to be exact – but I’ve often found it somewhat stodgy, particularly when I’m into my fourth portion because I’ll literally cook enough to give me leftovers for a week, then eat it all in one go.

So today, I took the unheard of step of deviating from the recipe. And not just a deviation born out of lacking – I’ll usually skip over the bits in fancy vegan recipes when they ask for blended almond-and-avocado paste – but a deviation born out of desire. I wanted it to taste less stodgy, and more zingy. So I did a thing.

I added salt to the sauce,

Now, I understand that this isn’t a particularly revolutionary step, as salt itself is a fairly basic component of a kitchen. It wasn’t even hard to do, nor did it take a lot of planning beforehand and a venn diagram to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages associated with such a culinary misadventure. I thought it could do with more salt, so I added more salt.

What’s even more stunning, however, is that I actually tasted the change. It was slightly zingy, and sharp, and helped break up the goopy texture of the rest of the dish.

The world has moved on.

I have levelled up.

Casey

Lethargic weeks

Heyho,

It’s one of those weeks. One of those endless spans of days that are either full of events but totally tedious, or packed with free time yet still manages to be unproductive.

Take my current essay, for example; in theory, it’s a romp through Norse mythology and my first foray into a topic my tutor is a world expert in and I want to study for my dissertation, but in practice it’s bleh. I feel stodgy and lethargic and just unmotivated, which are all perfectly normal feelings, they’re just happening at a rather odd time.

This week ought to be one of renewal and energy; I’ve started blogging again, I’ve had more ideas than ever for The Game Shelf, and as summer approaches I’m thinking more and more about my dissertation and internships to occupy myself with for the four months between classes. But now I just feel burned out.

It’s probably months of studying and writing taking their toll, as often happens; and while it may be advantageous to start dramatically amplifying my workload in anticipation of the coming exams, I often have a lull just before easter. There’s no point flogging yourself to climb a mountain if you’ve not made camp in eons.

Sadly, my triumphant return to the world of blogging has been rather hamstrung by this; I don’t feel like writing anything particularly inspiring (if ever I do), and I’m still finding a balance between personal posts and oversharing, and comedic pieces and just taking the piss like a dick.

I’ll get over it the way I get over all of such weeks – playing half-decent PS4 games and eating a load of chips – but it’s somewhat annoying that my optimism and excitement at the start of the week for various projects hasn’t translated to actual work towards those projects.

At least not yet.

Casey

The Nisa Supermodel

I’ve seen her,

It was a Tuesday night, the cold air drawing itself into puffed columns around my lips and nostrils as I walked into that chilly Nisa, the oh-too-convenient convenience store where I buy bread at a two-minute walk from my house instead of proper ingredients. My purple dodgeball hoodie was pulled over my head like a fabulous, yet serious and athletic cowl, clashing with my dark grey waterproof in what could be a bold fashion statement, or a hangover from my old ambivalence towards clothes that has left me with one too few coats, and one too many garishly-coloured hoodies.

Then she was there, strutting her proverbial, and indeed literal, stuff around the sleepy shelves of that local purveyor of pasta. Dressed in a colourful, panelled onesie, or a jumpsuit, or a body glove, whatever the term is for such a garment of artistry, she was confident, yet carried a skulky, shuffly air about her. Her hood was pulled over her head, her feet wrapped up in white Vans.

Back at it again?

Almost certainly. With her was a pair of onlookers, plainly-dressed, slightly-built men with large spectacles and an expensive camera; they pointed it at her as she crept around the store, a tall woman dwarfing yet not overwhelming the aisles of Super Noodles and OK! Magazines.

They took a photo. She stopped. They looked at each other. She walked back to the entrance to the aisle she had just walked out of, and the scene replayed again, her accomplices bending immediately back into their hunched, camera-toting attentiveness. This repeated another two times.

Then I stumbled into the scene, almost walking in front of the camera as this hoodied celebrity graced the Nisa floors with her presence. Yet the camera’s wielders were unfazed by my aspect, and continued to gaze upon their model, not allowing themselves to be distracted from such an artistic individual by one so base and fraught with wardrobe malfunctions as I.

They took another photo.

As the scene reset itself for a seventh or eighth time, I took my chance. I scarpered across the polished floor, struggling to hold in my arms my precious cargo: two Ribenas, a four-pack of vegan chocolate yoghurts, and a pack of those chocolate-filled Oreos that look like they should be sold only in the event of a national holiday, yet are strangely more plentiful, and far more satisfying, than their white-creamed companions.

I reached the counter, loot in tow, and quickly bought it, and the quiet, stoic man behind the Nisa counter narrowed his eyes and handed my a carrier bag. He was aware of the scene unfolding around us – he possessed greater mental wherewithal than the two camera-cronies – yet was unable to stop it, or breach the barricade of his counter and escape from a backdrop of concealed tobacco and those signs that are all passive-aggressive when they say ‘Don’t be offended if we ask for your ID’; I’ll choose when I’ll be offended, while this poor clerk cannot even choose where he stands.

I, however, had such freedom, and scampered out of the Nisa and back into the cold March night. I shot a glance over my shoulder, and saw the supermodel begin yet another stride down her catwalk, the two photographers stare at her with a strictly professional admiration, and the clerk roll his eyes, evidently weighing up the social benefits of letting a bunch of student photographers shoot in his store, versus the economic drawbacks of forever being known as the owner of ‘that place where the girl in the onesie posed for photos’.

In many ways, such a dilemma is beyond the cognitive mastery of one such as myself.

In many other ways, I kinda don’t give a shit.

Casey