Swimming?

I’ve been forcing myself to go swimming these past two weeks. At least, I’m supposed to be doing that. Swimming is supposed to be good for me.

It’s not like I don’t enjoy it, but it’s been really difficult to make myself do it lately. It requires getting all my stuff together, walking to the place itself, spending as much times I can in the water feeling self-conscious, trying not to get people’s way and simultaneously trying to take the swimming itself easy so it helps rather than hinders my RSI. It doesn’t cost me much money but sometimes it all feels pointless. Maybe if I could find someone to do it with me it would be easier, but I don’t think I know anyone who’d be interested.

Today I decided as soon as I woke up that I was not going to go swimming this weekend. If the exercise that’s supposed to help feels like a chore that I’ll do anything to avoid, it’s not working and I need to try a different tack. I need new habits that are sustainable otherwise nothing will make a difference.

I felt the sense of dread that had been building for the past few days dissipate as soon I made the decision, and knew I’d made the right choice. Now the question is: what can I do instead of swimming?

The obvious answer is to retry yoga now that I’m a bit more flexible from my physiotherapy exercises. I still have my yoga mat and there’s no need to rush things or feel self-conscious if I practice alone in my room. I set an alarm on my phone for 3 PM and, from now on, that’s my yoga time. Let’s see how well it sticks.

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Fundraising for PAPYRUS

I’m currently fundraising for PAPYRUS with my mum. We’re going on a Hope Walk at the end of the month which aims to raise money for the charity and awareness of suicide prevention. I would link you guys to our JustGiving page if I wasn’t trying so damn hard to keep this blog anonymous.

Planning out this walk thing has been a bit of a revelation in several ways. Firstly, I’m pretty sure that mum had no idea what she was getting into. She just wanted an excuse to go on a nice walk and raising money for a cause as worthy as this seemed like a good one. She didn’t expect to receive an extensive info pack including (amongst other things) instructions on how to set up a donation page for the walk and which hashtags to use. I, however, follow at least 2 charities on twitter, have made a few half-hearted attempts at fundraising before, and have done enough volunteering with non-profits/charities in the past to have a basic idea of how this should work. You must:

  • Tell everyone about it – stick the link to your fundraising page EVERYWHERE. Put it in group chats, bring it up at work and home, and spread it across your social media accounts. You’re most likely to get donations from people you know so you’ve got to make the most of your personal networks as well as the ether of the internet!
  • Add regular updates – people like to see progression. This reminds them what their donation is going towards and is also a good excuse to frequently remind people of your fundraiser’s existence.
  • Personalise it – every cause has a story behind it. What’s your story? Why are you doing this thing? Why should people want to invest in your journey?
  • Use the power of synergy – get other people to spread the word for you. From the more cynical standpoint, it makes both of you look good to whoever’s watching your social media. Besides, it’s simply good networking. If you use specific hashtags in social media posts you’ll get more views from people invested in those specific issues. It’s basic SEO principles operating at their finest. If they retweet or like your thing then their followers will see it too, and so on (I keep referencing twitter because I’m probably most familiar with its workings compared to other social media channels). Tag the charity you’re fundraising for in your post; maybe even ask a sympathetic celeb for a retweet if you’re feeling lucky. Lure people in with the story of your fundraising (why they should care) and a direct link to how they can help!

So far we’re doing better than I thought we would be in terms of fundraising. I think it’s because mum and I can tap into more social groups than I’ve been able to in the past, as we’re doing the walk together. Also it took me several years to accrue both my current mixture of social media accounts and know-how.

We started off with a £500 target which mum lowered to £100 after looking at other fundraising profiles. When I saw that we’d got £60 out of a mere 4 people after only a few shares, I suggested that we raise our target and mum put it back up to £500. I don’t think we’ll hit £500, but the least we can do is try. I’m going to experiment with sticking a donate button on the landing page of my portfolio website tomorrow.

I’m doing all I can with the social media. Dad’s shared the fundraising page link, one of my cousins has shared it, I’ve been getting likes on Instagram, and have a had a retweet on my public twitter. Today I did a photo shoot of mum and I wearing a PAPYRUS top, added an update to the fundraiser page about exploring our PAPYRUS goodie box, and started to craft a plan of action for drip feeding our progress updates onto the fundraising page and elsewhere. I need to get mum to tweet about it and put the link in her work WhatsApp chat.

Revelation one was that I apparently know a lot about social media strategy for fundraising. Revelation two was a bit more frustrating.

The hashtag we’re generally encouraged to use for the Hope Walk is #smashthestigma, and I feel like we’re being weirdly hypocritical with our use of it. In our fundraising page profile we say we’re doing this in aid of a family member who committed suicide 4 years ago. We don’t mention his name or how old he was or really say anything about him, because mum was nervous about bringing it up with the relevant family members.

Personal stories feel more personal when there’s a person attached to them, but we keep navigating around that part of things. I know that mum went through a bit of suicidal ideation during her time at uni but that’s gone unmentioned, my brother has carefully not told our parents about his self-harming behaviours, and I had CBT earlier this year but still haven’t felt able to mention it to the parents (don’t worry, I know I can be kind of morbid but I’ve never been suicidal). I just feel like we’re not practising what we preach. It’s all very well saying #smashthestigma when it comes to mental health, but I don’t think my family is actually doing it.

Of course, personal stories are difficult to tell. Directly addressing the elephant in the room can feel incredibly daunting; that’s probably why I fess up so much on here where most of my readers don’t know me personally. I’m not brave enough to say some things out loud.

I’m probably over thinking it though. It doesn’t really matter whether my parents know that I’ve had therapy or not. It would provide some extra context to “Semester 1 was stressful” and might possibly lower the chances of dad upsetting me with a tactless RSI comment, but it’s not like those would be huge changes. Them not knowing about my brother’s self-harm makes me more nervous, but that story is not mine to tell (I honestly don’t know how much help our parents would be with it anyway. Guess you never know until you find out).

At the end of the day, we’re raising money for a good cause. PAPYRUS’ helpline helps to bridge the gap between realising something’s off and offing yourself, to put it crudely. Everyone deserves to have that support readily available to them when they need it.

Musical Panic

I have to write and record some stuff about a shark cage and I’m freaking out slightly because I want it to be good but it’s hard to sing to something with no fixed tempo, and my ability to write meaningful lyrics has suddenly disappeared when I need it most. Tis’ the way of the muse I guess.

I literally only need to do a rough thing to send to my collaborator. It doesn’t need to be perfect and it certainly should not warrant this level of aargh. It’s not like he’ll murder me if I get it wrong.

I guess I’m afraid of letting him down, which is silly because it doesn’t matter if I do. Potentially messing up this one thing doesn’t mean that all of my stuff is crap, and messing up now doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t be able to help him out with other projects. He got in touch with me for a reason. That’s got to be good for something.

Balance

It’s annoyingly difficult to focus on anything at the moment. The last few days have been great but now I’m home and must go back to doing productive things. I have to polish my website, apply CV feedback/careers advice, figure out how Microsoft Teams works and get on with the music licensing thing.

It’s not like I haven’t got fun things to do, though. Someone from my MA has asked if I’m up for writing vocals for his weird sound art thing (YES PODCAST GUY I SHALL ASSIST YOU!); I have plenty of creative writing to be getting on with; and I do enjoy fiddling with my website.

The trick is to balance those things. I need to sort my day so the fun creative things take up equal time to the necessary productive things, while simultaneously keeping my RSI in check. Before, my drive to focus on work and only work was because of grades, but I’m not in full-time education anymore. I’m allowed to slack off like a proper adult now, so long as it doesn’t damage my arms. I don’t have to be productive all the time. I just need to be productive for long enough to feel good about myself later.

As for tonight, I’m going to have a shower, listen to some comedy radio shows, maybe watch more of the latest Netflix show I’ve started, and go to sleep before 2 a.m. Then I’ll be fresh and ready to do useful stuff tomorrow morning.

Figuring It Out

Hello, sorry for the lack of posts lately, I’ve been busy socialising! I’m visiting my fashion friend at the moment and so far I’ve caught up with her, baked chocolate cookies with her, binge-watched a bizarre but very gripping Netflix show starring Ben Platt as Hollywood’s definition of a teenager, been introduced to a bunch of enjoyable trash TV, tested a web page design on her and been given a tour of her tiny surburbian home town.

On the job front, I’ve got some CV feedback from a person who works in UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience, if I remember the acronyms correctly…) which is incredibly blunt but very useful, and a potential video chat with a friendly UXer next week. I’ve also got careers advice from my fashion friend’s mum (who works in marketing and is very on it with job stuff).

Right now, everything seems to point to me getting some form of work experience in the area. With something as varied as UX I reckon I should scout out tech companies, try submitting a few speculative applications and see where that gets me. It’s all a bit nerve-wracking but it’s also exciting and will be worth it eventually, even if I end up ruling out UX as a job opportunity and going for some sort of marketing thing instead.

For now however, I can relax a little. I’m staying at a friend’s house far away from my computer and there’s no shortage of cookies and clementines for us to snack on. I have some time to absorb the feedback, gather my thoughts and plan out my next steps for when I get home and back into the “Fuck must figure out my life” thing.

I’ve also now met my fashion friend’s mum’s boyfriend. My good first impression of him was cemented by his response to my claim that I’m currently figuring out what I want to do with my life. In a nutshell, he said that he is too, that pretty much everyone is unless they knew what they wanted to do from a young age – I find that ridiculously reassuring.

Researching Music Libraries

My initial weird excitement about quality checking my website seems to have worn off now, so I’ve switched over to focusing on my music licensing work.

A while ago I came across a music licensing course thing. It was expensive and seemed unnecessary when they also provided a free booklet on how to get started in music licensing in the first place. I watched their videos, and now I’m going through their step-by-step booklet on how to licence my music.

Practically, this means that I’ve registered with a PRO (Performance Royalty Organisation), picked and exported my most suitable tracks in the highest quality possible, have made a couple of spreadsheets, and am currently researching music libraries.

I’ve hit a few snags during this process of course; the first one being that I can’t figure out how to add metadata (the stuff that comes up saying who the composer is and so on when you look at the details of the file) to my audio when it’s in WAV format. ITunes doesn’t seem to do it for me. I need to figure that out.

The second snag is the whole “oh my god everyone sounds amazing and I’m just me” reaction that I apparently have to music libraries. The booklet I’ve been going through constantly emphasizes that it doesn’t matter how perfect your tracks are and that you just need to start putting them out there. Initially, I didn’t understand why such advice needed to be said out loud, but I get it now.

I have to keep reminding myself that the featured music library people have probably been at this thing commercially for a while. I can work up to sounding as good as them. I’ve got plenty of free time after all (that UX person had better get back to me soon).

Visiting Bletchley

I went to Bletchley Park with my parents today. It’s really weird staying at a hotel and doing this kind of thing without my brother. It makes me feel out of place sometimes. At other times my parents will be doing something and I’ll wonder why I’m there. I occasionally feel like a third wheel and then find myself wondering if this is what being an only child feels like.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bletchley Park but it was pretty good. I was very interested in the personal stories of the people who worked there. The psychology and matter of fact approach to the war effort that seemed to characterise this diverse collection of individuals seemed so alien to me. It was fascinating to read about their teamwork, dedication and quirks. I especially loved the random veteran quotes littered about the place.

Our visit made me want to rewatch the Imitation Game but I knew that the film wouldn’t be as complicated, nuanced or interesting as the reality of events.

We visited the Computing Museum afterwards and I felt myself switch off for most of that. I don’t care about hardware. I care about people’s stories and programming stuff myself. Dad was happy though, which was the aim after all. It’s his birthday weekend.

I’ve got several hours to kill until dinner which means I get to laze around the hotel room and do things like watch TV, write this and update my diary. This weekend is my forcible break from website coding. I’m going to try and make the most of it so my arms will be ready for more when we return home on Sunday.