I’m one of those “involved” people. Always have been. An email goes around asking for volunteers/candidates/opinions and I’m the first to answer it. I can’t bear to not be on a committee, to not go to a meeting, to not read a set of minutes. I don’t know what made me this way. I have a serious case of bureaucracy.
As a result of this (and of my thirst for power), I am “class rep” for my Education PhD group, a large number of whom are middle-aged and elderly former school teachers. And I am frequently surprised by the places this job has taken me, from explaining computers to the elderly to passing on messages about dirty microwaves, but this year, it has led me to taking a seat on the University Discipline Committee. When I told my college friends that I was on the Discipline Committee, they couldn’t not laugh. The idea of me, the most inappropriate and indisciplined man in the university being on the Discipline Committee was too hilarious to be true.
Of course, I have a disciplinary role in Hall, and I also have a pastoral role. As a result of this, I was asked to be on the University Psychological Response Team, a support network called on to work in the case of a major emergency or “incident” on campus. I told my PhD colleagues and my supervisor this when we were out for drinks last week. They fell around laughing, at the idea of me, with all my psychological stability, being called on to be on the Emergency Pschological Response Team.
I later told my friends at work about this, laughing as I did, at the idea of me being on a psychological team. They didn’t laugh. It seemed perfectly obvious to them. It reminded me that I am one person with my PhD friends and another person at work.
There is nothing professional about me in college, other than all my bureaucracy-related output. In college, I tell everyone I’ll be in the office on Tuesday morning. Instead, I arrive on Wednesday, at 3:00 pm, sit at my desk, update my Facebook status twice, have a Diet Coke, have a little cry and tell a dirty joke and then leave an hour after I got in. That’s not the “work me”. I have worked three years full-time and two years part-time at the same school. In those five years, I’ve been late five times, and once famously slept in for a whole day, but other than that, I am, to all intents and purposes, a professional. I am trustworthy. I am given positions of responsibility. I am punctual and reliable and good at my job. I have enough common sense and ability to float back and forth between management and other staff relatively unscathed. I’m well-liked. Work Connor is an ideal person for a Psychological Response Team.
Paris in the Springtime
I was visiting a friend of mine in Paris last weekend. This is the last of my weekends abroad until a conference I’m going to in Milton Keynes in June.
I arrived early on the Saturday morning in Beauvais, Paris’ Ryanair airport, a large tupperware box, held together with sellotape, from where I got a bus and two metros and arrived at my friend’s house a little over three hours after landing.
We went for lunch in a creperie, with a large sign outside saying “Bienvenue Au Terroir”. Devastatingly, this does not mean “Welcome to The Terror”. Since then, I’ve spent the last week trying to think of businesses that I could start called “The Terror”.
Afterwards, we took a walk along the Seine. There was a Family Outdoor Activity Day along the river, and it was nothing as awful as it sounds. We stopped to watch the young men at the boxing bags and the pull-up bars. I sometimes enjoy aggression in others more than is strictly healthy.
We each got a glass of Kir and sat by the river, our legs dangling off the riverbank. We chatted away for about an hour and then decided to get up. I hauled my body around to face away from the river and started to stand up. As soon as I put any weight on my feet I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stand, as my feet had gone to sleep. I came crashing to the ground. It’s lucky I had turned away from the river before I stood up or else I would have fallen straight into the Seine. I can’t swim, and the Seine does not look like a healthy river to fall into. I might have been writing this post from Purgatory. Instead, I fell on the concrete. For all of Paris to see. I tried to stand up again and couldn’t. My legs still couldn’t hold my weight. I lay on the ground, imagining what I would do if I could never walk again. Eventually, two handsome young Frenchmen came to my assistance and, along with my friend, they succeeded in getting me upright. They left before I thought to give them my number.
It’s eight days later and I still have a bruise on my left breast and my left knee. Poor Connor.
The following day, we went for brunch with a group of mainly Irish friends of my friend. It was lovely. Early in the meal, one of them asked about my bracelet. This gave me a chance to talk about One Direction and clarify that I am, indeed, gay. This makes things a lot easier. I originally bought a One Direction bracelet as a reminder to myself that I could run 8 kilometres, back in summer of 2012. I’m now embarrassed to think that there was a time when I could do that when I think of the state I’ve allowed my body to get to, but I really am glad that I wear the One Direction bracelet all the time anyway. The bracelet comes out for me, and I don’t have to go to the bother of doing it myself.
Having established early that I was gay, one of the group, who was clearly too camp to be anything other than a massive queen started chatting to me. He was absolutely charming in the way only the very camp can be. He was full of tall tales. I disagreed with him about many things. He thinks gay adoption is wrong, for instance. He talked to me, patting my shoulder, telling me he liked my manly eyebrows and that while he disagreed with everything I said, I was great to talk to. He kept his face close to mine, and he said some conspiratorially-shocking things like, “We two, as gay men, can jump straight to the cum-shot.”
I did not know what to make of this. Is this just the way gay men talk to each other? I have no idea. Was he flirting with me? Do people flirt over brunch? I have no idea.
We then all went for a walk together in the Jardin du Luxembourg and he leaned over to me and suggested we get away from the others and find some bushes. He still had that camp tone that made it entirely possible that he was joking. But maybe he wasn’t. I panicked. Completely. And I started talking to one of the others, pretending not to have heard what he had said. He more or less ignored me for the rest of the time we were there, to my great relief and greater disappointment.
After only a day and a half in Paris, it was time to go home. I got two metros, a bus, a plane and two more buses and was home by midnight-ish on Sunday.
April of Awesome
I have made some New April’s Resolutions
I have a One Direction calendar in my kitchen. All five boys are in the April photo, and Zayn is wearing a hat. I am going to work on my PhD every single day in April. Sundays. Easter. Days when I’m travelling to conferences. Days when I’m at work. Days when I’m hungover. Every single day. Every day, at the end of the day, I will put an X on that day on my calendar, to show that I have done my PhD work for that day. By the end of the month, there will be thirty Xs.
As advised by a friend of mine, I need PhD jobs to do on days when big work can’t be done. For instance yesterday, I was teaching from 9:00 am to 3:15 pm and was on duty that night. I was exhausted and couldn’t achieve a lot. But I could write the acknowledgements page for my thesis. And I enjoyed it. And I could put my X on the calendar.
I really am determined to get this PhD done.
In my bedroom, I have a copy of the Scholars and Fellows naked charity calendar. The April page is the literature scholars, naked and reading. Every day, at the end of the day, I put an X on the calendar if I’ve done 30 minutes of exercise. And I will have 30 Xs by the end of the month.
I was really disappointed with March. The first six weeks of the year were amazing in terms of fitness. I had my fitness back. I could walk to college and back (two hours), spend an hour and a half at Bikram Yoga, go for a run in the evening and use the stairs instead of the lift. All in the same day. And I let it slide.
But every day of April so far I’ve taken the kettlebell that props my kitchen door open and I’ve done 15 kettlebell swings. And I’m walking again. And I’m taking the stairs when I go downstairs, though I’m still often taking the lift up.
Today I went back to Bikram Yoga for the first time in six weeks. It’s really hard. I can do almost none of the poses properly. I can’t touch my feet. My body doesn’t really do stuff. And at the end of the session, the trainer said the same thing to me that the previous trainer said to me before. “At least you stayed in the room the whole time.” That annoys me. It assumes I did nothing but stay in the room. I tried almost every pose. I adapted a lot of them to my body. I know bending over looks easy to others, but I find bending over excruciating, and today I did that again and again. I know that going from lying down to sitting up is fine for other people, but hauling that much weight up off the floor, even halfway off the floor is a mammoth task, and today I did that again and again. I know that putting your feet together is easy for others, but for me it involves genuine pain, and today I did that again and again. So I’m proud of what I did today.
I’m going to be proud to put that X on the calendar tonight.
In my tiny hallway, I have the college Cancer Society naked charity calendar. The April photo is of the debating societies, lounging about in the nip. Every day in April, I’m going to practise mindfulness meditation. And every day, at the end of the day, I’m going to put an X to mark that I’ve done my meditation. And by the end of April, I’ll have thirty Xs on the calendar.
I have been hearing everywhere about the benefits of meditation, and of mindfulness practices. And far be it from me not to obey the latest self-help trend. But it’s not something new. My entire family (except me) starts every day with an extended “silent prayer”, which is basically meditation, and I know lots of older people who do meditate.
I want to practise mindfulness for a number of reasons. 1. It apparently makes you happier. Who wouldn’t want that? 2. It should help concentration, which I desperately need in order to finish my PhD. 3. It apparently helps with overeating. I would give a million euros to be able to describe my eating as “mindful”. 4. I need peace. I need to not be such a twitchy person. To not have to check Facebook and Twitter and email and blog stats and dating sites and meet-up apps and news sites and the self-improvement section of StumbleUpon when I wake in the middle of the night, or when I’m in the middle of a conversation with someone else. When I watch TV on my laptop, I never maximise the screen, because while I’m “watching” TV, I’ll also be scrolling through countless other tabs on my browser. I’m like a child in need of constant distraction. And distraction from my distraction. So I’m trying mindfulness. And, because I’m Connor I’ve got high hopes.
So many Xs. So many calendars. Keep your fingers crossed for me.