last year

I read an article the other day about finding purpose in life. I read it partly because I was bored, and partly because I was a bit curious to see if it was actually going to offer some decent advice, as it wasn’t from any of the usual sites that people share articles from.

I don’t actually remember anything from the article (pretty sure this was over a week ago…) except the last question it posed: If you only had one year left to live, what would you do differently?

I thought that that was an interesting question. One year is long enough to accomplish something significant, but not too long that long-term consequences really matter. Of course, the assumption is that you’re practically invincible for this one, final year – otherwise, I (and I assume plenty of others) would probably become more risk-averse, and hence not want to do anything with high risk of mortality/morbidity.

But I didn’t really like how the question implies that most people would change a lot of things in their final year, so I created a converse question: If you only had one year left, what would you do the same?

Ok, so the original question is good for people wanting to re-focus on what’s really important in their lives, and for people who need a bit of a nudge to actually do the things that make them feel happy/inspired/fulfilled, etc. But sometimes you also have to recognise and appreciate the things that are already good. I found it more satisfying to ponder my question than the original one (although I have realised that the original question is an all-too-convenient excuse to buy things I don’t really need (but that’s arguable) and to eat more cake).

So, after some thought, I’ve put together a list of (some of) the things that I would not change if I knew I had exactly one year left to live:

  • Work: This is probably one of the things that people consider first when asked a question like this (along with questions about winning large sums of money). Maybe I’d move to part-time hours, but I’d still go to work – up until the last couple of months at least.
  • Run: I don’t think there’s much need to explain this. I like running. I see no reason to stop or reduce how much I run in this hypothetical scenario.
  • Read: I would still read novels, but perhaps just be more selective with which ones I read. One I’d definitely want to finish is Dickens’ “David Copperfield”. I guess that’s next on my reading list then…
  • Write: After having this blog for so long, I’d feel weird stopping it suddenly. Besides, despite the irregularity of my posts (timing, content, style, etc), I do like to write. I can’t imagine not writing for a year.

And, of course, there are several other things, but I reckon those are the main ones.

hope

Although I don’t actively seek out good quotable quotes, I do like coming across them when I do. We have a little quote-per-day desk calendar at work, and usually the quotes are irrelevant or too long or uninteresting or otherwise not quotable, but there was a good one the other day. This particular quote I found so agreeable that I tore it from the calendar at the end of the day, and went to share it with the FS crew across the hall. And now I’m sharing it here:

For every feared thing there is an opposing hope that encourages us – Umberto Eco

At this point in my original draft for this post, I proceeded to analyse this quote and discuss my interpretation and thoughts on it. However, in this case, I think less is more. The quote itself is quite straightforward, really, and it’s all the more beautiful and profound for it’s simplicity.

happiness by the hundreds

Ok, so I actually finished the “100 happy days” challenge several weeks ago (over a month ago now) and I’ve been intending to write a post about it, but I guess I just somehow haven’t gotten around to it until now… What I actually wanted to do after the challenge was go through all of my posts – sorry, tweets during those 100 days, and see if there was a recurring theme. Basically, I just wanted to analyse it to see what I tweeted about most. And then I would write a blog entry about it. Yes, I’m a bit of an academic at heart.

This isn’t actually going to be a very thorough analysis, though. (I evidently don’t have time for that!) I pretty much just scrolled through my “100 happy days” tweets and tallied up the theme(s) of each one. The results aren’t actually that surprising.

About a quarter of my posts (I’m giving up on calling them “tweets” because that just doesn’t sound natural to me) were related to food in some way, including at least five that were about cooking. Food was the most common theme, and that was kind of expected because I have to eat every day, and I love food, so it was kind of easy to find “happy” things to post about food.

A lot of posts were also about people – friends, family and colleagues.I wouldn’t say that my social calendar is very full, but when I do go out, it seems that I’ll generally make the most of it.

The final spot on the podium goes to work-related posts. Considering that I spend a great portion of my week at work, this is also not surprising. I also actually like my job, which is something that I’m thankful for. However, to be fair, there might be a bit of bias in this particular statistic because I’d often think about my tweet of the day while coming home from work, so I suppose my thoughts may have naturally focussed on work-related events. Similarly, there were a fair few posts related to my daily commute.

Something else of note, is that there were more home-related posts than ones pertaining to the outdoors (excluding those about the weather or sky). I do consider myself to be a somewhat outdoorsy person, but I can’t deny that I like my home-days.

Anyway, some of you may have noticed that I’m kind of continuing my “happy days” tweets, but not as a daily thing – just for when I remember and/or feel like it. Not sure how long it will last, but I’ll try… Mostly because I don’t include a lot of photos/pictures with my blog posts, so having my Twitter feed on the side kind of helps break up the pages and pages of words here… kind of…

As to whether or not the challenge has changed my life or made me happier: probably not…? I feel like life’s gone back to “normal”, as it was pre-challenge. Perhaps one benefit is that I am more conscious of negative thoughts and will more actively counteract them with positive ones. Well, either way – whether there was direct benefit or not – I do think that it was a worthwhile challenge, so I’m happy I took part and actually made it to 100.

hyp-hens

I had an interesting conversation with some colleagues the other day about the use of hyphens. DT seems to have a particular interest in words that aren’t spelt phonetically (or that are spelt phonetically but could be pronounced in alternative, more interesting ways), so we talk about various peculiarities of the English language from time to time.

This particular conversation arose when DT noticed that I hyphenated the word “thank-you”. (I would like to clarify, however, that I only hyphenate it when used as an expression or a noun, but not when “thank” is used as a verb. For example, if I received a nice comment on a post, I might reply with a “thank-you”, or I might write “I would like to thank you for your comment”.)

Anyway, the upshot of this brief discussion was that I found out that I hyphenate more often than others. Well, there were only three of us in the conversation, but I felt sufficiently disheartened by the lack of concurrence with my use of hyphens to not ask anyone else… Instead I’m writing about it here, to share with even more people! My logic is great. (I wasn’t actually that disheartened. I think we were just busy, so the discussion was cut short prematurely.)

Apparently, my colleagues do not hyphenate “week-end” either, preferring to write it as “weekend”. I have noticed that my phone’s autocorrect does recognise “weekend” but (as corny as this is going to sound) I feel like I’m not being true to my grammatical principles if I don’t add the hyphen, so I’ll take the extra second to add it in (unless I’m in a massive rush, or I’m really tired and couldn’t care less).

Also, it seems that “ice-cream” doesn’t need a hyphen either. When I went through primary school, I’m pretty sure I was taught to hyphenate all of these words. Does this mean our primary school curriculum isn’t standardised in relation to the use of hyphens? What other inconsistencies hide in our education system, waiting to be uncovered in awkward workplace conversations?

This seemingly innocent conversation brought up a lot of other questions about hyphens… Why does “weekend” get to be one word when the hyphen is removed, but “ice” and “cream” remain separate entities? Why have I never considered using a hyphen for “work-place” and other similar compound words? I’m suspecting that it simply has a lot to do with how the word looks when it’s written, and perhaps the way in which it is read. “Weekend” looks fine, but “icecream” does not (or does it?). But this is all so arbitrary! It’s almost like there’s no set rule because there’d be too many exceptions.

A to Z

Just a quick post to kind of balance out the long posts I’ve been writing lately. I generally don’t set out to write really long posts, but I also generally don’t plan my posts very thoroughly, so they just end up long because I didn’t realise how much I actually had to say about something.

I don’t really have anything in particular that I wanted to write about today, but I just really felt like writing something. I suppose you could say that writing is kind of therapeutic for me. I might not be stressed out to begin with, but I know I’ll feel better after writing (in the same sense that I feel better after reading, eating, or going for a run; a bit of music doesn’t go astray either).

Recently I’ve felt like writing letters. As much as I like writing entries for this blog, I’ve been feeling like I’d really like to write letters to people. Nice letters, of course. The only problem is that letter-writing doesn’t seem to be regarded by my generation as very socially acceptable (and in case it hasn’t registered, I’m talking about handwritten letters).

Yes, ok, I’m sure there are some sentimentalists out there who are both Gen Y and like handwritten correspondence (and some of these might even be people I know!) but it’s not the sort of thing people just casually ask one another… “Hi, can I write you a letter?”

starlight

I actually finished reading ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (by John Green) last week-end, but I’ve put off writing about it because I prioritised finishing the last of my NZ posts, and I haven’t had an awful lot of time and/or energy, finishing work late more than once this last week… Also, I’m not entirely sure what I really think of the book.

Let me say, straight up, that I did like the book. It’s written well in the sense that it was easy to read quickly; I just kept reading page after page, and before I knew it, I’d finished the book. I also liked that the characters and the story seemed so real. However, I can also appreciate the author’s note at the start about how it is a work of fiction: “Neither novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter”.

This is quite possibly more resonant with me after having just read ‘The World According to Garp’ prior to reading TFIOS. I’m kind of still wondering if I still have remnants of a book hangover from ‘Garp’ because even though I took a brief pause (can’t remember how many days – just a few at most) before starting a new book, I was still thinking about ‘Garp’ as I read TFIOS and, evidently, I’m still thinking about it now. (Note that I didn’t take a break from reading – I just went back to ‘Great Expectations’ instead of starting anything new.)

As an aside, one of the parallels between ‘Garp’ and TFIOS was that the protagonist in each novel talked about the books that were important to them. For Garp it was ‘The Secret Sharer’ (Joseph Conrad) and ‘The Man who Loved Islands’ (D.H. Lawrence) – both of these are now on my to-read list. For Hazel it was ‘An Imperial Affliction’, which is a fictitious fictional book by fictitious author Peter Van Houten. I will admit, I was a bit disappointed when I realised that it wasn’t a real book.

Regardless, it doesn’t detract from the story, except maybe that there isn’t that feeling of being able to continue the connection with the novel via other novels. But I’m digressing…

Having an interest in health/medicine, I did like the references to drugs and hospitals and whatnot. And although “Phalanxifor” is not a real name for a real drug, the basics about her treatment are all there and realistic, such as the “moon-face” adverse effect from her anti-nausea medication.

I have to warn you now that there’s a spoiler in the next paragraph. I know that most people who do care about what happens in TFIOS have already read the book or watched the movie (or both) but in case you have not done either of these, and you do want to find out what happens for yourself, then consider yourself sufficiently warned. Just don’t even read the rest of this post – go and read TFIOS instead.

I’m sorry, but I can’t sufficiently discuss TFIOS without talking about the ending.

The main thing I liked about how TFIOS ended was that Hazel didn’t die. Once her case was introduced as being terminal, and then she started having complications with fluid in her lungs, it was sort of expected that she would barely survive the whole novel. But it would have sort of sucked for it to end like “An Imperial Affliction”, mid-sentence. It does still leave unanswered questions, though, like how much longer does Hazel live, what her parents do after she’s gone, etc.

On the other hand, I reckon it is ok that Augustus died by the end of the book. If I feel like over-analysing it, I could say that TFIOS essentially finishes when he dies because, in the same sense that AIA finshed when Anna (the protagonist, afflicted with cancer) dies or is just able to continue writing, TFIOS ends after Augustus dies because, for Hazel, that’s worse than dying, herself. Too much?

Well, I’m not much into literary romance and whatever, but the relationship between Hazel and Gus was kind of adorable. And I can understand all the hype (and the memes) now.

There’s also quite a lot of humour in the book, too. It’s good that it’s not all sad and waiting-for-people-to-die. I have to commend John Green for making Hazel so likeable. I’m always especially amazed at how well some male authors write female characters. TFIOS is written in first person, from Hazel’s perspective, and she does some great commentary.

Perhaps what I’m most disappointed about with TFIOS is that it was too short. After reading ‘Garp’ gradually over a few months, it feels like TFIOS ended too soon for me. And there’s little to no chance for a sequel! Except maybe about her parents… Who knows…