life

Keeping a journal

There are some things I always carry with me – keys, wallet, phone, and a bright yellow A5 notebook.

I like to think of the notebook as an analog download of my brain. I follow the bullet journal system, which means it’s a combination of a journal, a planner, a collection of lists, and basically anything else I feel like writing down.

I highly recommend keeping a journal. Writing down your thoughts can be a good way to work through problems and relieve stress. Plus, years later you can look back at it and laugh at what an embarrassing idiot you were. It’s a gift to yourself that keeps on giving.

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life

My most boring dreams

Last year, I started keeping a dream journal. I usually forgot my dreams within minutes of waking, and I felt like I was missing out on something. What exciting and surreal adventures would I reveal? What secrets of my subconscious would I uncover? Could there be brilliant ideas percolating in there, possibly even fodder for a novel? I was excited to find out.

It turns out that most of my dreams are deeply mundane, and that was why I didn’t remember them.

Here are some of my most boring dreams:

  • I buy a mandoline slicer and use it to make coleslaw.
  • I attend a ‘luxury’ retreat that is centred around hand-washing my own clothes.
  • Quorn releases some new ‘vegan’ products, but it turns out they still have egg in them.
  • I realise I have only one day to live, but begrudgingly agree to spend it at academic conference on a subject I have no interest in.
  • I go on a day trip to Aberystwyth. I try to take some photos for Instagram, but later discover my thumb is in every shot.
  • At work, I am forced to justify my choice of databases.
  • I buy some clothes on eBay, but none of them are any good.
  • I under-bake the banana bread.
  • I meet a small child in a shop and try to convince him to buy a Wii U. He doesn’t.
  • Lying in bed, I notice the houseplant in the corner is about to topple over. I hurl myself across the room to catch it. I wake up standing next to my bed, adrenaline pumping. There is no plant.
  • I stay in a holiday rental with a group of people who are constantly reminiscing about something fun they all did while I wasn’t around. On the last day, I do the washing-up.
  • I write about the washing-up dream in my dream journal.

Truly, it is amazing what the unconscious mind can imagine. I’m looking forward to the inevitable moment where I re-enact that Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin bores himself awake. Maybe tonight’s the night.

Or maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll have the houseplant dream again. That was pretty thrilling.

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life

Running a half marathon

I recently ran my first half marathon.

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

I have never thought of myself as an athletic person. The combined horrors of puberty and middle school gym teachers gave me a longstanding opinion that exercise was something other people did.

I first dipped my toe into running about 8 years ago, when I followed the Couch to 5K programme and shocked myself by managing to run for a solid half hour. But since then, my running had been pretty inconsistent. Occasionally I would keep it up for a few weeks at a time, but I had no goals and didn’t make much of an effort to fit it into my schedule. I’d do 2 miles here and there when I felt like it, and that was it.

One day last September, I was sitting on the bus during a particularly tedious commute, and saw that my friend had signed up for a local half marathon. “Maybe I could do that!” I thought. The intense boredom of the bus was so great that I signed up on the spot.

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life

Life after cheese, 6 months in

I’ve been a vegan for more than half a year now. It’s going great. At first I was hesitant to talk about it, because everyone hates smug vegans. But I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it recently, and it’s actually something I feel very strongly about. So screw it – let’s talk about why and how I became a herbivore.

For years, going vegan was something that I had a vague sense I should be doing, but could not be bothered to do. I’d been vegetarian since I was an animal-loving kid, but couldn’t bring myself to take the next step. “I love cheese,” I said. “If I don’t eat cheese, my life will be barren and I will literally die.”

Then I read this article:

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

Biggest analysis to date reveals huge footprint of livestock – it provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland

The study in the article was enormous, covering 40,000 farms in 119 countries. And it showed that animal agriculture’s impact on the environment was massive. My love of cheese was contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation of the Amazon, and water and air pollution.

Climate change regularly keeps me up at night. I stare at my bedroom ceiling, thinking about famines, rising sea levels, mass extinctions. The fact that we humans are not doing enough to stop this future from happening fills me with deep fear and frustration. I see my friends having kids and worry about the state of the planet we’re leaving them. Suddenly the cheese did not seem worth it.

“Well, shit,” I thought. “I’d better get on with it.”

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