Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Doing Stuff Better

In the last few years I have blossomed into what I would like to think is a healthy, productive, mentally sound and slightly creative human being. Being a human being means you get to be a rational, reflexive and introspective entity and thus you should strive to achieve your very, very best.

As one who has studied, worked, rambled around and generally had a great time while maintaining a veneer of  'proper person', here are a few of my suggestions for doing stuff better:

Good Things Happen While Everyone Else is Sleeping

When I lived in London I worked in hospitality, and often would wake up somewhere around the 10am mark with sore shoulders and a perpetual lack of energy that only caffeine could temporarily abate. This isn't a good way to live. If at all possible, try to structure your life so that you can go to bed at a reasonable hour. 
Turn off the internet an hour before bed, read a book, listen to or play music, don't argue, try not to cry about how your life is falling apart, and generally just allow yourself to chill out.

REM sleep is the most important for your body's rejuvenation and longevity, so give it a break and let it do its' thing. That way you'll wake up naturally (speaking of, don't get a heavy curtain, let the natural light wake you up), early, and won't feel like a cat slept on your face. If you get up early, you'll enjoy the best part of the day, get loads of cool stuff done while all your friends are sleeping or hating themselves, and generally be well on your way to having the upper hand in life. 

Did you know the morning looks this good?

Clean Up Your Digital Self

I spent less than an hour on Sunday morning doing something I haven't done in a very long time.  I deleted no less than two email addresses, three blogs, changed my Facebook name so it won't instantly show up in Google, deleted my LinkdIn (I can set up another when I have a 'career' worth networking), deleted my and made my Twitter account private. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the internet more than I love most things in this world, but I cannot hack the instantaneous accessibility to your personal, and banal, information by anybody with access to even dial-up. I Googled myself (as one does) and found a lot of links to redundant things I'd rather not be so easily available. 

It didn't take long, and it felt very therapeutic to deactivate accounts, close social networking sites and delete ancient email addresses, along with the memories, back and forth emails with people from yesteryear, and dozens of MSN contacts, because who in their right mind uses MSN these days?

If you have a few minutes to spare, Google yourself, and read up on minimising your digital footprint.

Eat Good Foods

I was a vegetarian for a decade, and, while I made every effort to eat very healthy, I ended up in a situation where I had no interest in food and it was a chore to feel full, even after stuffing myself with the ubiquitous pulses, grains and beans. When puberty was long since finished and I realised that my adult body didn't want me to subsist mainly on plants, I spent about a year working out how to change my diet.

I now eat a good amount of animal protein and a lot of vegetables, occasionally cakes, and try to steer clear of processed or artificially fortified foods. I love coffee and tea, but try to stay away from breakfast tea (the milk reverses the antioxidant effects of black tea), never touch fizzy drinks, and I don't drink alcohol, so overdoing it is never an issue.

If you don't know how to cook, learn, fall in love with Julia Child, eat at home with friends, don't buy take-aways, and get in the habit of reading the labels on foods. Calories are not bad for you, high fat content is not necessarily a negative, and always always always avoid foods that are marketed as 'low fat/low calorie/no added sugar'. Go with unrefined, full fat products and you'll probably live longer. If it doesn't make your whole self feel amazing, but just tingles the outer reaches of yourself for about five seconds, then it's probably not good for you.

This one time in the Black Forest a French-inspired German restaurant happened
I wish I remembered where this was
I will always remember this lunch; avocade, crackers, seeds, tomatoes, rocket, balsamic and olive oil.
Oh life.

Hydration is the Key to Success

Carry a large-ish water bottle with you at all times (buy a reusable one, those plastics sure aren't good for you) and drink from it throughout the day. Hydrate before bed, first thing in the morning, and if you're drinking a lot of caffeine. If you're drinking a lot of alcohol, drink a pint of water every few drinks and you won't feel quite so bad about yourself the next morning. That's all I have to say on the matter, really. Water is good. Drink it all the time. And drink it without ice, your body will like you more.

Don't go to Graduate School

Ok, this one has a bit of a different tone from the others. I did an MA last year in London. It cost quite a bit of money and luckily I was given a loan from a family member that I am eternally grateful for. That being said, I was often disappointed by the course content, and felt like they had a bad approach to us, as if we had paid our money and thus we got a certificate regardless. Unless you are strongly motivated by a certain topic, have workable research interests, have funding or a wealthy family, I would suggest giving graduate school a good deal of though. Give it, say, two years minimum.

 I would also recommend ingesting this and this article.

If you're nearing the end of your Undergraduate education, bear their advice in mind. If you're at the end of school, why not look into areas other than university? Would you be better suited to a trade, a technical qualification, a non-traditional job? I wish someone had told me 6 years ago that I should look outside the box, but instead I was encouraged to go down the academic route. I could be a carpenter by now, but instead I'm 24 and I probably won't get an apprenticeship here as I don't speak Danish.

In our precarious economy, good jobs are scarce, and the best advice I have is to take an alternative road to making your happy. Interning may get you to an entry-level position in your chosen field, with few benefits and bad pay (who wouldn't want that?) but to get there you often have to work for free, and aside from the fact that this is unethical and deplorable, unless you are from a wealthy family you probably won't be able to afford to both work for free and sleep in a bed.

Instead of doing the college-intern-graduate scheme-entry level-big city-no time route why not try applying your skills to a less saturated sector, training for a trade, or, like me, moving to Denmark, where you get paid to study if you're an EU citizen who is in part-time employment. The world is big, and, depending on the colour of your passport (it just so happens that maroon with a gold harp guarantees you a smile and small talk no matter where you go), you're more than likely free to explore a large part of it. There are any number of websites that allow you to work, travel and stay in places for pretty cheap, such as, or

If you're a humanities, social sciences or arts aficionado, you should probably forget about that 'career' for the next 5 years. It's not the time. Instead, get out there, 'network', see the world, and gain experiences that will make you employable once the EU or US have functioning economics again (ha ha). Or, just move to the Middle East and work in recruitment. Trust me, I'm thinking about it.

So, there you have it. Some truly sound advice from a sound gal. Don't you just feel, well, a whole lot sounder?

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