In which I want to be better, or The Story of my Life in 250 Words.

I know I’m a shitty blogger. Since launching my second attempt at an internet presence that is not Twitter or Facebook more than a year ago, I have managed to post exactly nine times. Nine. 9. Nein, nein, nein. Not good enough.

As the weather is getting drearier and drearier (it’s officially still summer, and yet I have already bought a new lambswool scarf and thought about asking my parents for a tweed jacket for Christmas), I am once more resolving to write more, and write more regularly. And because inspiration is hard to come by, and everything is copy, I’m shamelessly pilfering once again. There’s the “Blog every day in May” challenge that I’m not going to do (because it’s not May, and after writing 0.7 blog posts per month in the last year, the idea of writing 500+ words every day in a month I’ll mostly spend flat hunting is frankly ridiculous), but which came up with 31 great topic ideas ranging from “The story of your life in 350 words or less” to “A vivid memory”. (Full list can be found here.) So, without further ado, I’m launching into how frighteningly easy it is to recount my life in less than 300 words.

First, a few cornerstones of my existence. I was born almost 28 years ago, in a rural backwater in Catholic Northern Germany, as the first of four children to a pair of left-leaning hippies with surprisingly strict views on all things my peers and I considered elementary to a hassle-free childhood, like access to refined sugar, television, “fashionable” clothes and later curfews, booze and boys. Despite my inarguably strange tastes in music, clothes, hobbies and friends (always managing to veer off the acceptable path sooner or later) and my terrible swottiness, I managed to make it through school mostly unscathed and, surprising no one more than myself, never became the target of the sophisticated bullying campaigns cocked up for some of my less fortunate friends. I did, however, manage to cultivate a reputation of being rather arrogant, which to this day I attribute to the fact that I was too poor to buy contact lenses and too vain to wear glasses, and as a consequence never recognising anyone who might greet me on the courtyard.

As tends to happen with overprotected children, as soon as I moved to the other side of the country for university and no longer had my parents breathing down my neck, I went completely off the rails in my first year. Sick of my reputation as a good girl, I immediately set about launching a new version of myself, but quickly realised that over-the-top debauchery bored me to death and embarked on a relationship with the most stable, reliable person I could find (although I have to give bonus points for still pissing off my parents). It lasted three and a half years in total and ended the way most 20-something relationships end: Messy tears, messy rebounding, messy second attempt, fading of interest, final breakup. Never quite able to keep that promise of being “friends”, but able to look back without hating yourself, or them.

After graduating with no boyfriend and an English lit degree in the middle of a global financial crisis, the next logical step seemed to get the fuck out, STAT. Figuring if I stayed in Germany, I’d spend my next two years hopping from one unpaid internship to the next, I packed two bags and boarded the next Ryanair cattle truck to London Stansted. Found a flat, found a shitty job, found a second job to supplement the shitty salary from the first job. Found a better flat, a better job, quit the shitty job, stopped talking to the shitty flatmates. Found awesome boyfriend. but that’s a story for another day.

Happy days.

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A horrible photo, and entirely too much wet-blanket-ness.

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My father recently repaired my computer, restored my hard drive and rescued about fifty odd gigabyte of music, Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, uni course work, and most importantly, pictures. I could have hugged him – if we had that kind of relationship. As it was, I hovered anxiously over his shoulder, terrified he’d go through any of the data and discover the very personal folder of Davis Boreanaz nudie shots that I had lovingly accumulated over the years, and when he was done, snatched the laptop from his hands and mumbled something that to the uninitiated may have failed to convey the full extent of my gratitude. But hey, that’s just how my family works.

I don’t use my computer much anymore. I figure as I spend most of my days staring at a screen for eight hours, I have better stuff to do with the time I’m not getting paid for. (Therefore, on a side note, I should probably just accept the fact that I’m never going to be a regular blogger, much as I’d like to.) However, as I had a bit of time on my hands this weekend, I started browsing through my pictures folder, and embarked on a trip down memory lane.

The above picture was taken in early 2006, shortly after my twentieth birthday, in the first flat I moved into after leaving my parents’ house on the other side of the country, with two of the best friends I will ever make in this life. It’s not a great photo – Tessa’s face is half obscured, we’re quite obviously hammered, Jenny hadn’t quite got used to German cuisine yet and is about two months away from shedding twenty pounds, and I look every bit the chinless wonder that I am – and both will probably have some serious words with me about publishing it on this public a forum. But it’s the only photo I can find that has only the three of us in it, and no other people that we subsequently fell out with, or just stopped talking to without ever really noticing, or caring to find out why it happened when we did.

A lot of stuff went down in 2006. I decided that after refusing to consider any different career options for four years, I was no longer interested in becoming an interpretor. I switched my major to English against my parents’ wishes and had to live with their disapproval. I met, and subsequently started dating, someone they disapproved of even more than my career choice, which didn’t make the next three years easy, as every argument about the one (career) would invariably turn into the other (relationship), and vice versa. I had to accept that my parents had an idea of what and how I was supposed to be, and that this idea wasn’t congruent with my own. I, the notorious people pleaser, had to learn to put myself first. And I was mind-bogglingly lucky to have these two ladies by my side to see me through.

Of course the relationship didn’t last, and there were moments (days, weeks) in 2011 when I was working the most soul-destroying job imaginable, which was so pitifully paid that I was working extra hours at my local pub, and I thought more than once, this could have been avoided if I’d gone for a major in accountancy. With the benefit of hindsight I’m not loathe to admit that my parents were right about a number of things, and I could have saved myself a lot of trouble had I listened to their advice. But I would have missed out on a lot of things, experiences,  people that have shaped my life and made me the person I am today – I would be a different version of me, and with all the modesty I can muster – I quite like myself.

The day I decided to go for an English Literature degree, I accepted that I wouldn’t have a career path cut out for me, the way my lawyer brother does. As my final year approached and random third cousins felt justified to ask me what was next, I replied honestly that I had no idea, but that I would take any job to pay the bills while I was figuring it out. I gave myself a year. A month before my deadline expired, I had an excited call from my recruitment agent, and the rest is history.

I can’t know how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t met Tessa and Jenny. What I do know is that I listened to Tessa when she said to me, over and over again, the important thing is that you do what makes you happy. And I breathlessly stood by and watched as Jenny romped her way to an MA with distinction, all the while juggling three jobs, an ERASMUS semester and various unpaid internships, and somehow still finding time to occasionally force-feed me tequila at the Moritzbastei, and I thought, she makes it look so easy.  And I look at her today, with her hot job and her beautiful flat and her lovely boyfriend and the half-marathon she ran last month, and I think, I want to be her when I grow up.

And that’s why it’s a great photo after all – because it was taken in 2006, and it has us three in it, and we’re happy and excited and hopeful, and we’re just at the beginning of that journey. And today it’s 2013, and we’re scattered all over the place, and we’ve changed and we’re older and a little wiser, and I’m stuck with the overwhelming feeling that I wouldn’t be where I am today, nor as happy, if it hadn’t been for these two.

I owe you, ladies.

Look what I got! Ooooh, shiny.

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Ignoring that I only got this “because we boink”, my (for want of a better word) writer boyfriend and one man wonder behind Forsoothandtwenty has presented me with the above. Alas, the good things in life are not for free, so here are

The Rules:

  • When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them!)
  • You write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog!
  • You paste the award picture into your blog.

My Elevens:

1. I’m a German-born Londoner with Bohemian ancestry and a Russian soul who’s recently lost her heart to Australia.

2. I identify as a feminist, but other feminists annoy me, as does the word “feminism”. I wish we could all just get along.

3. I work in online marketing, specifically, SEO. It’s ever so tempting to sneak in gratuitious links to “my” websites. I also get to spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter and get paid for it.

4. I’m rather good at Scrabble.

5. My boyfriend’s parents think he “turned” me.

6. I was recently told my accent sounds like a mix of German and public school. I wish I could hear for myself how terrifying that must be.

7. When I was 10, I had a series of extreme misfortunes and once almost bit my tongue clean off. The only reason I didn’t was that I was wearing a dental splint from a previous accident.

8. I’m in the middle of an unfortunate love affair with London. Most days I feel like Heidi in Frankfurt, but then this great big rotting corpse of a city comes up with something lovely like this and I’m head over heels again.

9. Animals make for much better company than most humans. Humanity is a bit like a hippopotamus, as in that it smells a bit ripe and is best admired from a distance.

10. Wherever I set my virtual foot on the interwebs, I’m being tracked  by Glenmorangie. They have an excellent online marketing team.

11. I’ve run out of things to say.

The 11 Blogs:

Forsoothandtwenty (What? Just because he nominated me, I can’t nominate him back? My post, my rules.)

Against Her Better Judgment

The Brainbar

Geek Terror

Adventures of a Solitary Cyclist

Victoria Writes.

What, that’s only six? Well, tough. My blog, my rules again.

Forsoothandtwenty’s questions:

1) Your physical tick/obsession?

I chew my lips to bits.

2) Why do you feel the need to write?

I don’t really, at least not often. It’s more a question of “when” – and that’s mostly when I feel I haven’t updated my blog in a long old time. Or if someone famous says something unbelievably stupid.

3) Just what the heck is up the French, anyway?

Too much garlic in their cuisine.

4) Would you be a Super Hero or a Super Villain?

Probably the former. I’m probably not smart enough to be a villain.

5) What would your Power be?

I’d be a mobile  wifi spot.

6) The best thing you’ve ever put your foot in?

The Indian Ocean.

7) What non-sailable/non-driveable/you-get-picture-here luxury goes with you to your exile on the desert island?

Can I have that robotic sex doll that Tim Minchin was asking for?

8) The most surprising place you’ve bumped into some-one you knew?

My flatmate from Germany, outside No. 10, Downing Street.

9) Would you survive a Zombie apocalypse?

Totally, although other people have expressed doubts. I have two brothers and a sister.

10) Would I survive a Zombie apocalypse (based on what you’ve gleaned from this… thing… that we’re doing here)?

Based on what I would have gleaned from this, yes, but I know the real you, and you’d probably have a nap in the middle of a battle, or get lost on the underground, so no.

11) You can meet anyone from history that you want. You can take them out to dinner or to a bar, or to lazer quest if you like (I don’t care, just them get them outta my damn time machine already), who would it be, and would you punch them in the face before sending them back? Or what would you say to them?

I’d go for a potter around the less reputable parts of Paris with Oscar Wilde and hook up with some rent boys, then egg the Marquis of Queensberry’s hack chaise and at the end of the day I’d ask him whether I’m right and Orlando Bloom should have played Dorian Gray.

My 11 Questions:

1. Would you rather go for a drink with Obama or punch Bush jun. in the face?

2. If you couldn’t do it yourself, and you could hire anyone in the world, who would write your autobiography?

3. Live to work,  or work to live?

4. Who do you grudgingly admire?

5. The stupidest thing you’ve done that you stupidly still don’t regret?

6. Something you and your parents can never agree on.

7. The most embarrassing thing you like.

8. If you had to decide between living a long, happy, but ultimately insignificant life or a short(ish), intensely experienced one that changes the course of history, what would you choose?

9. Do you remember the first story you wrote/told?

10. The most shallow thing you’ve judged someone on.

11. If you could live inside one book forever, which one would it be?

Oof.

Why I Don’t Really Think It Means All That Much

Blogging! Only two posts in and already have I begun to neglect the Damsel. And I had such good intentions! I keep thinking about things that might make a good blog post, but then I don’t want to blog for the sake of blogging, and here we are, madness and sweaty palms. I briefly contemplated writing about Missouri Congressman Todd Akin’s fuckwittery of epic proportions, but then surely everything has already been said and I couldn’t possibly hope to add anything clever (mostly because after a while I get incoherent with rage). Another idea that briefly crossed my mind was to write about an ad for a “Posh Dating” website that recently popped up on my Facebook – Zuckerberg and friends seem to have found out about me dating above my station. But then I kind of forgot what I found so funny about it and there was no way I could milk an entire post from Hamish and Co. on PoshFlirt.co.uk, so on I moved. And now this new London obsession with Nolympics – yes yes, fun while it lasted, certainly a blast, now let’s get back to normal please – again, everything has already been wrung out of it.

But! When I got into the office this morning and switched on my computer, there it was – the perfect blog story. The Hunger Games trilogy has officially passed Harry Potter in terms of sales figures on Amazon.com. And because I haven’t really aged past 16, I felt mildly offended on behalf of all eight billion Harry Potter fans on the planet and tried to come up with reasons Why That Doesn’t Actually Mean All That Much. (See, the title does make sense.) And I don’t even dislike The Hunger Games – in fact, I hugely enjoyed the novels and devoured all three in about a fortnight, have given my sister a box set for Christmas, got Soldier Boy and several friends into it and went to see the film almost immediately upon release. But after that I put them back on the shelf, and kind of stopped thinking about them. And Harry Potter – well, it’s twenty-three past midnight, well past my bedtime, and I am writing a not-terribly-well-thought-out blog post about why Suzanne Collins making a shitload of wonga from e-book sales doesn’t mean that we love her more than JK Rowling. So without further ado, here’s the list.

First: It’s Amazon. (And what’s more, Amazon US.) And while we may all feel that they are the only booksellers in the world that really matter anymore, there is one huge disadvantage with a bookstore that stocks its goods in huge warehouses on industrial estates miles from anywhere that matters – they are shit at organising midnight releases. So while I’m sure they have made huge profit from the large group of people who were unfussed enough that they could stand waiting for a couple of days, weeks, months before joining the boy wizard on his next adventure, they missed out on the gazillions of devoted fans who happily queued in the cold for their copy, wearing Gryffindor robes. And I’m also sure that not every family is as mental as mine, who had to buy four individual copies of the Deathly Hallows on the first day because we just couldn’t agree who would get to read it first. (Then there was the story of when we were all bundled in the car, me driving, trying to get home as quickly as possible so I could start reading, and then my sister started teasing me by reading out half sentences and I turned around to hit her but (very nearly) hit a cyclist instead. Hilarity ensued.)

Second: Digital Revolution. Kindle figures are counted within the overall sales figures of course, and Harry Potter wasn’t available in e-book format until March this year. And when it came out, sales in the UK alone topped one million pound within three days. Despite the fact that the world and its grandmother already owned a copy – again, I’m not making assumptions about the sanity of other people just because my family, in addition to the four English Deathly Hallows copies, has two copies of each book in German – one for reading, one for display – at least one of each, if not more, in English, plus a couple of odd ones in French and Russian.

Third: Three words – Young Adult fiction. Can you see parents reading their children bedtime stories about Katniss’ perennial homonal woes and Mutts tearing holes into Cato? I can’t either. I can, however, see all 3.4 members of the average white middle-class household holed up in their respective corner of the little semi-d’ in Surrey with their noses in a copy of Mockingjay each. And I can also remember reading to children who will probably never in their life cross the threshold of their local Waterstones branch (or whatever the equivalent German book chain is these days), but who were nonetheless breathlessly following Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley.

Fourth: None of the broadsheets have picked up the Amazon press release yet. Which leads me to the assumption that they have decided to take the news with a pound of salt as I have.

Draco dormiens numquam titillandus.