Welcome! Honest Lies is the personal site of a 24 year old graduate electrical engineer living in the UK. Covering every day life, books and various other randomness. Read more about me and the site here.

uri_mh1487720008757uri_mh1487720102263I’m looking through some of the photos I took over the weekend; the sun was shining and it was warm, so I headed out for a walk at a local green space. I’d last been there when it was snowing and it wasn’t too different, still a winter landscape, but the warmth and brightness and stillness of the day made up for the bleak surroundings. Eventually, I even found a patch of snowdrops. Spring is finally approaching. It was wonderful to get some air, and get some movement, burn off some of my restlessness from anxiety. I listened to an audio book and the birds singing and felt a calm I desperately needed.

(Sadly my camera battery died so I only had my cellphone to take pictures but well, that’s not a deal breaker in these times is it, it just means a sad lack of zoom.)

After my walk I went to the city center to what else, shop. I got my brows done and ate out for supper as a treat, a comfort outing but not excessively (I was pretty good about staying away from browsing so I didn’t end up buying lots of stuff I didn’t need just to cheer myself up!) The next day I went out to shop again – I got more fish!! I bought ten new white cloud mountain minnows and two cherry shrimp. I’m quite taken aback by how many fish there are, it’s a little overwhelming, and I am fascinated by the shrimps…They are a little creepy looking but maybe also cute. I’m not 100% sure about how to care for them but they seem to be doing ok anyway. And thankfully none of my fish (read: my boisterous danios) have eaten them. Yet? I hope not yet, they were surprisingly expensive.

Tonight I had my dreaded Japanese test. I can take small comfort in the fact that I don’t think actually studying would have helped that much? In the sense that I massively struggle with remembering kanji, and the test was pretty much a kanji test. I’m trying to be annoyed, but mostly I feel resigned. After writing yesterday’s post I have come to an acceptance, I’ve not given up yet, but I’m accepting that I’m not in the right headspace for this now, and it’s ok not to do well the first time. Failure is not the end of the world, it’s just a bit embarrassing, and a lesson to be learnt.

I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday . I’m eager for the weekend when I get to see the last of the Opera North fairytales – Cinderella!

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On giving up

I think I want to quit learning Japanese.

But at the same time I’m not sure if I can.

It feels terrible and wrong to even think it, let alone put it out to the world like this.

I developed an interest in Japan when I was a teenager, and when I could finally begin to learn Japanese when I started university it felt like a dream come true. I’d tried self-study as a teen and I was terrible at it and I thought that the structure of classes would solve all my problems. I took classes in my first year, my third and fourth years too and so it only seemed natural to look for classes when I moved to this new city for work. So I did. So I am. The thing is, maybe classes worked for a while, but ultimately learning a language, as with learning all things, takes a fuck tonne of discipline, motivation and self-study. And I just cannot anymore. After 4-5 years of study I am burnt out and fed up.

And it makes me feel awful. I am very good at starting things, and then backing off once they get difficult. I tried to learn horse-riding, but I felt anxious around the horses and didn’t like my teacher so I quit. I tried to learn musical instruments, but I didn’t have the confidence to practice or perform so I failed and I quit in shame of my failure. I tried to join societies at university – I tried archery, I tried badminton, I tried charity, I tried hill walking. I didn’t last a year in any of them. I am a master of starting things and never fucking finishing them. Japanese is the thing I’ve stuck with the longest. My love of Japanese and Japanese culture has defined my teenage years through to the beginnings of my adulthood. I have told everyone possible I am learning Japanese and how much I love Japan. I have been to Japan twice – both of which were significant investment. Actually, on that note, learning a language is a serious investment. I have spent hundreds of pounds on classes and textbooks and bus journeys to get to class. And ultimately all this, for what.

I am in a very frustrating place with Japanese now – with a basic grasp of the language but unable to quite push through to the intermediate level. I never study enough though.(Though I will never understand how much is ‘enough’…always feels like there’s more.) I don’t want to; I don’t particularly enjoy it and I don’t particularly want to do it after a long day of work (I tried to study during my lunch breaks but work has been too full on lately that I haven’t been able to, and I can’t use my commute as I get travel sick when reading on buses.) But aren’t we told that the best things in life are the results of struggles and hard work? If it’s easy, then it’s not worth it? So I should struggle even though I’m miserable, for the sweetness of the reward?

What is that reward though, when learning a language for no real reason other than the love of it? I am not going to use Japanese for business reasons, I am not going to live in Japan, when I travel to Japan it’s easier and quicker to speak English (the Japanese grasp of English is significantly better than my clumsy attempts at communication in their language) (And I doubt I could afford another trip to Japan any time soon anyway.) It’s pretty fun to understand bits and pieces of the Japanese music and dramas I watch, but I feel like learning the language has in some ways ruined those for me – I’m too busy trying to translate, but not quite able to, that I end up completely distracted from my listening and enjoyment of said media. It’s really frustrating.

My love hasn’t died but I am starting to resent it somewhat. Why did I have to love this thing and what can I do to stop. It breaks my heart to think about this thing that was so precious, that defined me, my choices, and saved me in this manner, become an object of such resentment, to have faded. (Both trips to Japan were taken during two of the lowest points of my life, and they transformed me. My love of Japan has kept me going, a bright hope in dark times, something to look forward to, and something to love amongst all the bleak things. I loved it very much, especially my classes during university. I remember how at the end of the semester we would go out to eat as a group and even though I usually hate socializing it was so much fun to be surrounded by people like me, who loved other cultures, who had travelled and loved to do so, who loved Japan. Those moments when I am listening to a Japanese song and I understand a line, or I can understand a food item on a menu in a Japanese restaurant I feel so happy and proud.) I don’t like feeling this way about something I love, but at the same time maybe I am supposed to feel this way – that my love should be painful and it should be difficult because only then is it worth it? Again, I come back to this idea of no pain, no gain. It makes me feel so lazy and worthless to want to give up because it’s difficult. That’s it, isn’t it? Ultimately I am trying to make excuses for my own laziness – like all those other hobbies mentioned above. Like come on self, stop being a baby. That’s the whole point. You’re learning something here, that’s gotta hurt.

And because it feels like I should be doing something like this in my free time. Without Japanese, all my hobbies will be strictly home based and solitary and am I allowed that? And I think I will miss it – being around these like-minded people, hearing their stories. And then the fear kicks in – of that black dog sleeping deep within my soul, beginning to stir. Is this depression coming back, this lack of motivation? This desire to just chill at home by myself with a book or a drama? Is it depression to feel this demotivated? Am I letting my mental health stop me from something amazing here? Is it my mental health saying no to this or is it me? It’s a terrible thing to not be able to trust your own brain, your own heart.

I have a test tomorrow for Japanese. I haven’t studied. After all else failed, I decided to self sabotage. I will fail and then of course I will have to quit from the embarrassment/shame of failure.

Or will I? Do I say OK, this was a bad year make some lists as to why and start over again, retaking this year once more, trying again (actually trying!) to complete this level next year?

What for?

What am I trying to prove, and to who, by clinging onto this?

I don’t know why I am doing this anymore.

It’s stressing me out so much.

“Warm spring that left, won’t you come back to me?”

The past weeks have been swinging between extreme highs and extreme lows. Work is…there is a situation I cannot talk about but which is crushing me right now. I am stressed out and anxious. But in other ways things are good right now – my flat is not looking like a complete disaster for once, I have been getting into reading again and enjoying some good dramas too, my neighbour’s cat has taken to coming into my flat and letting me play with him and cuddle him, and I’ve had some pretty good weekends spent actually doing stuff and not holed up at home feeling sorry for myself (see: work.)

One of my goals when I moved to this city was to take advantage of the cultural elements available to me, and take advantage of my salary, to see more shows. I love going to the theatre to see ballets, plays and operas and I don’t do it nearly enough. So I’m doing something about that now. Opera North are currently hosting a Fairy Tale season and I’ve got tickets to them all. I love fairy tales, especially the dark originals. For these shows too, I admit I was drawn in by the posters, which show the main characters in traditional costuming, although I have been confused as to how different the operas are turning out to the posters. (Very confused.) Anyway, I also bought tickets for Turandot in May. This gives me something to look forward to in these stressful times, and gets me out the house, which is also good (see: no moping.) It’s not too expensive either. After all, you can get a seat for just £15, and I bought a three opera package which meant that both Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella were £13.70 each! (Lets not talk about how expensive Turandot was even with a three opera discount – I wanted a good seat and I better have got one!)

So, the other weekend I saw the first of the fairy tales: the Russian “Snow Maiden”. My sister came up to my city and we went out to supper and then to see the show and it was all awesome. The Snow Maiden was extremely odd – it felt like it should have been sung in Russian, and the costumes were a bizarre mix of traditional and modern that made little sense (I don’t get why the Snow Maiden was in jeans for nearly the entire show whilst all the other characters got to change into different costumes. It was in stark contrast to the beautiful dress that Snow Maiden is wearing in the posters for the show. Shouldn’t the main character be the most beautiful, the one that stands out the most?) But it was short and funny and wonderful. My sister and I went shopping the next day which was also great fun.

I went to see the second of the fairy tales last weekend: the German “Hansel and Gretel”. This was a full on modern production of the opera. Again not as advertised, at all, though I did end up loving it. The music was stunning, and the opera itself was…surreal. It was very odd and slightly disturbing (young children singing happily after brutally burning to death a witch OK then) but it felt true to the dark spirit of the original fairy tale. I thought it was a more successful modern rendition of the opera than the Snow Maiden – the snow maiden swung between traditional and modern, which was confusing, but this one went all out modern. So OK. It was also hilarious… and I loved some of the odd details, like the witches wand being an electric beater (so random) and the use of video and cameras. It was really great. I also appreciated that it was also short – as much as I enjoyed 5 hours of parsifal, it can be a big demand on your time to sit through such a long show! I missed my sister, my default show-going partner, but she let me text her throughout the evening so it was like she was right there with me anyway. :)

I am looking forward to Cinderella, although I was drawn in to that by the gorgeous poster (the dreamy dress Cinderella is wearing, with bare feet) and from these two I can tell already that the actual product is going to be very different. Cinderella will at least be sung in the traditional Italian. Both Snow Maiden and Hansel and Gretel were in English. :( I can understand that for accessibility and drawing younger crowds (a goal of this opera season, if I’m reading the programmes correctly) it makes sense to present the operas in their English versions, but one thing I enjoy about the opera is getting to hear different languages. I would have loved to have heard Russian. Oh well.

This weekend though I am…actually holed up at home. I had plans to go out and buy some more fish, but it’s too cold and miserable. Winter is starting to get to me – dark mornings, grey, dull days and then it’s only a matter of time before its dark again. Last weekend there was actually some sunshine and I felt optimistic that spring may have finally started to come…the bulbs are starting to show… surely it should be time? I need some sunshine already. I’m starting to get cabin fever. I pace through my own flat, filled with restless energy. That’s maybe just the anxiety though. I wish work would be better. Then everything would be so great. I suppose it’s an impossible dream to want everything to be going perfectly well at all times. Come spring, hopefully things can settle down at least. Being pushed to these extremes, often quickly, is exhausting. I try on focus on all the good things going on in my life right now, those highs, but the stress of the lows leaves me so tired out and makes even being happy feel too effortful.

DIY

uri_mh1485609115393I am not very good at DIY. Understatement. I have no idea what I’m doing for even the smallest tasks. I would like to be more independent so I’m trying to learn – to change lightbulbs, build flat pack furniture, and now, hanging pictures. My sister has a scratch map and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted one. I knew I wanted the deluxe version with the gorgeous combination of black and gold. I thought I’d put it in a black frame but that seemed so dull, so I looked for a gold frame instead. Unable to find one I thought I’d just paint a white one. So my tasks were thus – buy neccesary supplies, prepare and paint the frame, and finally hang the complete product on the wall.

It went wrong almost straight away. I went to B&Q (hardware store) and picked up items, wasn’t sure if they were what I needed, phoned my dad and was told that yes, those are the wrong items, you need more items, and you can make it much more cost efficient too. 😳 I wandered the aisles of B&Q for ages with my phone glued to my ear, juggling all my items, looking lost, confused and out of place. I was all those things. I came for paint, a brush, a steel ruler and a hammer and left with – a 50 piece tool kit, a brush, paint, sandpaper, a steel ruler. Yeah. “You’re starting DIY for the first time?” The woman at the till asked me as she began to scan my items. I laughed “Is it obvious?”

I started the night I bought my items. I sanded the frame lightly (probably too lightly, in hindsight. My frame is bad quality and I was scared it would break!) and then put on the first coat of paint. This was a Friday. Over the weekend I put two more layers of paint. By Sunday it was looking very gold, and a little streaky, but also kind of awesome. I tried to put the scratch map in but it was a little too narrow for the frame and kept falling out. I tried to use double sided tape to stick it to the backboard, which barely worked. Then I hung it. I…Didn’t measure where to hang it. I thought I could just eyeball it. Big mistake. I successfully hammered in the picture frame hook, got it up and realised it was completely off center , relative to the bed below it.

But it was up. I had done it.

I was very proud of myself, despite how imperfect an installation it was.

The final step was to get hold of some black card and make a frame to hold it in place. Obviously I couldn’t use the plastic sheet the frame had come with as it would cover the map, which I needed to access to scratch off the places I have been. Double sided tape was not working and I was worried would eventually damage the map anyway. Glue would be too permanent and also damaging. So I got some card and cut it … Unfortunately I have to cover the bottom of the map in a big way for stability but I figured I could use that space to list my trips or something like that (maybe just a title?) At least now I don’t need glue, tape or anything. The map is securely held as is, and you can’t see the gap on the sides where the map doesn’t quite fill the frame.

All in all this was expensive and time consuming. The result is flawed. But I am still ridiculously proud of myself. I did need to phone my dad…A lot but otherwise I did it all myself . :D

Pros and Cons

Pros of fishkeeping-

They are entertaining

Fish have surprising amounts of personality. My minnows are shy and indifferent, my danios are lively and a bit boisterous , my betta is curious and always has an air of royal annoyance. My danios and minnows swim around, investigating their environment, chasing each other, displaying, they nose at the gravel and around my marimo seeking fallen items of food. They start shoaling around the food hatch at feeding times, and when I put in crushed peas I put it in the water by dipping my fingers in and they’ll eat right off my fingers. My betta skulks around his kingdom all day, making sure it’s ok. He watches me when I’m in the room, and follows my movements. He has a special ‘dance’ he does when I come close to the tank, in order to beg for food. He’s always hungry that one. I catch him staring up at the place where food appears, quietly waiting. He builds bubble nests and i have caught him just once, curled up on his betta hammock. He won’t play with me, but occasionally he will follow my fingers if I slowly move them across the side of the tank, and it’s nice to know he knows I’m alive, that I am there. (Even if all he wants is food! 🙄)

They are beautiful and interesting

Basically.

They are relaxing

I could watch my fish swim around for hours. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I find there’s something very therapeutic about watching fish. It instantly makes me feel a bit calmer, a bit more in control of my racing thoughts.

They aren’t demanding

You can miss feeding periods, you can go on holiday, you don’t need to exercise them, groom them or play with them. They don’t care when you leave in the morning or when you come back.

They are cheap

Many fish are between £5-£10 for a small group. My betta was £6. Their food is under a tenner. I can feed my minnows and danios peas and spinach as a treat, which is something I have in the freezer anyway. I can catch little flies and throw them into my Bettas tank, which again, cheap and easy and makes him very happy. (I err…Have lots of plants, which is where the tiny flies come from. They are harmless to my plants so there’s not much I can or want to do (using pesticides indoors is bad) so yeah, they aren’t garbage flies and there’s not swarms of them!!)

Cons of fishkeeping –

They require expensive equipment

The fish and their food is cheap, but the initial set up is hellishly expensive. A proper sized tank, filter, air pump (optional), heater (optional), substrate , decorations, plants (real and/or fake), water testing equipment, tank cleaning equipment (gravel cleaners, siphons, buckets, algae scrapers, sponges), thermometers…It quickly adds up to a frightening amount of money. This leads nicely on to:

They don’t have great emotional needs, but they have intense environmental requirements

I read an article which said that keeping fish is not about learning to keep fish, but learning to keep water. Ain’t that the truth. Your fish will only be non demanding and cheap if you invest time and money into setting up a decent sized tank (tank size dependent on what fish and how many!) and then take the time to maintain it properly. I do water changes every one-two weeks dependent on the tank and circumstances (my betta tank is too small for two weekly changes, and my big tank needs weekly water changes for a bit after I go on holiday as algae can build up from the food blocks I use, and waste build up too probably) I test the water monthly. I keep my Bettas tank heated. I have appropriate hiding places and foliage in both tanks. I have a baffle on my Bettas filter to still the water as fast water flow stresses him out. In contrast, I have an air pump for the big tank as my danios and minnows really like it. My danios in particular like to swim through the bubbles.

You don’t need to play with them or groom them, but you must watch over their environment carefully. I have thankfully not really witnessed the side effects of poor water quality or inappropriate environment (apart from my betta before I put the baffle on his filter), but I’m always aware of what stresses my fish and how to create and maintain the best environment for their needs.

I am not allowed to move, ever

I am not sure how I would go about moving a 120L tank… They are also impossible to catch. 😐 this is slightly problematic when you are living in a rental and are in the early stages of your career.

They have limited lifespans, and are prone to suddenly dying

You a) can’t get too attached because b) they are going to die, sooner rather than later and c) you are likely going to have to deal with the remains, if they don’t just mysteriously disappear. Dead fish aren’t any easier to catch than live fish. And without a garden to bury them I have no choice but to chuck them in the bin, which feels terribly heartless. :(

They are hard to keep track of

I don’t know how many fish I have. They swim too fast for a headcount, and they hide. My minnows especially love to tuck themselves behind ornaments or within the plants. I think I have 16 fish in my big tank…Maybe?