I now have three running aquariums. D:

I went to the pet shop today to buy some plants for my 120l tank. I went in and they had kittens in stock. The one kitten came up to the glass and started to meow at me, reaching out with a tiny paw to push at the glass between us at the same time. I nearly walked away with them but barely managed to resist. I then went to the aquatics section and I managed to walk past the Betta section, because I know better than to look, and I looked at the plants and I looked at the fish and then I saw him.

He was in a tank with a bunch of platys. He was white and blue and pink and purple. Every time he moved the light caught a different color. He was swimming up against the glass and I looked at him and I looked at him and I fell in love. I asked one of the staff if it was ok to keep a Betta with other fish like that, and the staff member explained as long as the Betta was put in with fish that didn’t have flowing fins like it he wouldn’t attack it. And as long as the Betta fish wasn’t put in a tank with nippy fish then the Betta wouldn’t be attacked. Are minnows and danios ok? I asked. Minnows, yes. My heart sang. Danios, no. Then quickly I deflated. Could I try it? Maybe… I continued to look at the fish. I had a 12l spare, I had gravel, I had rocks and wood. I could buy a heater and a plant. I didn’t even know where I would put the 12l and I later realized I forgot to buy a thermometer, or factor in that it would be another mouth to feed and tank to monitor when I was away. I had resisted the other temptations (THAT KITTEN!) (all the other Bettas!) (a beautiful black axolotl!)

And I had completely fallen for the little guy.

I got him.

I took him home.

I got his tank set up. It’s very simple at the moment. Since this picture was taken I’ve got the filter in. I’ll soak some of my spare wood to build up the tank a bit. He is a bit shy and fussy right now, as would be expected. He picked at his supper – kept spitting it out – and goes to the back of the tank when I come close.

I hope he is gonna settle in. He was more expensive than my other Betta fish, probably because he is fancier (my other Betta fish was glaring at me as I fawned over the new Betta. Or at least I felt like it. I may feel slightly guilty to my Betta for finding the new guy…a little prettier… :| )

And yes, I did buy the plants too! Gave the big tank a good tidy and put in the new plants. Getting very heavily planted in there and it’s beautiful. My first Betta tank is doing well and it would have been a year since I got my first Betta at the end of this month. I’m placing my original Betta at a year and a half years old, which is kind of awesome.

I’m definitely getting a little too into this fish keeping hobby. I can’t believe I have three tanks. I hope this won’t affect my electricity bills too much :/

Cleaning

I’ve spent a lot of time this weekend decluttering and organising things. Although some of my “markers of adulthood” I mentioned in the last post are definitely out of reach for me there are some I can definitely work on right now – like my savings, and buying nice furniture. And as I mentioned, I’m trying to keep the flat tidy and organised. Trying to settle in to my environment and take pride in it, and let go of a lot of stuff I don’t need because although I don’t mind clutter it can get overwhelming having too much (there’s a fine line between a little clutter and being buried alive under your stuff. I’d prefer not to cross it. ) Also, doesn’t matter how much nice furniture you have, your place is likely to still look like crap if it’s untidy.

So, cleaning. (Not savings, that’s pointless to talk about because although I’ve been improving, I have major outgoings next month which are going to ruin it all :( )

I’ve been reading Unf*ck your habitat by Rachel Hoffman and I am trying to follow her clean for short periods of time then take a good break from it rule. I used to be a marathon cleaner, but as mentioned in that book, marathon cleaning is exhausting and overwhelming. (Where marathon cleaning is basically leaving the mess until it gets too bad to ignore then grudgingly spend hours getting through it, or alternatively waiting for cleaning inspiration to hit and spending hours getting through it. With neither involving much going on between.) So I’m trying to get better about doing small amounts everyday to keep things getting out of hand, and even for my major deep cleaning this weekend I took breaks often, and I watched dramas and YouTube videos whilst organising where possible to keep things as non-monotonous as possible.

I cleaned my bedroom quite thoroughly and I’ve been trying to organise all my random papers. I have many odd bits that I’ve shoved into boxes and did my best to ignore. I’m a mild hoarder who will attach herself to anything, no matter how small or insignificant. But this reminds of this event/thing/time, but what happen if I need it in the future, I’m very good at telling myself these things. I tried to be harsh with myself this weekend. And I made good progress, though I’ve still got a long way to go. :/

“Can I be safe from this sudden fear of change. This sudden fear is strange”

It was my 25th birthday on Sunday. I wanted to write about it, as I have many thoughts about turning 25, but my thoughts wouldn’t come together. Still, they won’t. I am writing and deleting, writing and deleting. So here goes, a random thought dump about being 25 and where my life is now and all my random thoughts about it.

(This is going to be very all over the place, I’m sorry, I just don’t know how to pull this all together.)

25 feels like a milestone age, in a quiet way – the way 16 is to 18. I am, as always, amazed as to how far I’ve come. 25. It feels like I should really know what I’m doing by now. I don’t. And actually, I think that its likely that a lot of twenty somethings feel these same feelings, the weight of the world’s expectations versus our own feelings of loss and confusion. But I suppose I tell myself that because I want things to be coming together now. And I don’t quite want to admit it, that I think about settling down quite often. Not in the traditional sense, like getting married, or having kids. But I think about owning my own place, having a stable job, having some savings, buying nice furniture and adopting a kitty. I think about these things which I feel are some of the markers of adulthood and I see that I have none of them and I feel a little lacking.

I’m 25. I’ve come so far and I have so much, but I’m caught up in feelings of wondering if it’s the ‘right’ things or if it’s enough and I look at others my age and feel a little, fine a lot inadequate. (I guess I’m also caught up in watching my sister, who is older than me so I should accept is ahead of me, but I look at her stable job, the house she has bought and the kitty she has adopted and I ache. Will that be me in three years? Can that be me? It doesn’t feel like my life is heading in that direction yet and again, I ache.)

I’m still settling in to this new stage of adult hood – being a working professional. I know, still. I feel so frustrated with myself too, I keep telling myself to hurry up about it all, but I can’t seem to. My anxious brain takes a long time to process things. So now, almost two years of working gone past and I’m still processing, trying to come up with working professional Catherine, and get rid of student Catherine. For such a long time my life was dictated by academic timetables, coursework and exams that it is incredibly difficult to get out of that mind-set. Work is so difficult. It’s at once incredibly structured and incredibly free. Instead of working to a curriculum, memorising the right things and putting them on a paper and measuring your life’s progress by the grades you get, it’s a lot more abstract. You have to take your own initiative, and then you get judged on how you take initiative and what you come up with, yourself. It’s weird getting used to creating your own curriculum to study and managing your own schedules, and don’t even get me started on also dealing with office life and culture. I still feel like a complete fish out of water at work. There is so much to learn, so many interesting but difficult things to take in and try not to mess up. Being at work, working, can be incredibly rewarding, but also extremely embarrassing sometimes. It’s so awesome getting things right, but on the flipside it’s so awful getting them wrong. You want to impress! And make a good impression! Then you make a typo in a mail to a client, or can’t explain a key concept without getting tongue tied and it’s like damn, self. Come on. I get so frustrated with myself. I need to think about becoming a chartered engineer at some point, but I have no confidence for it. Am I worthy of it? Do I know enough for it? No way can I be that clever and competent.

I still can’t quite believe I have an engineering degree, to be honest. That I am an engineer. Like, what. Even now, 7 years after school, I still sit with the teacher’s words telling me I was never going to get anywhere. Some days I’m crippled by imposter syndrome, clinging on to average GCSEs and poor A level grades, and ignoring the masters in engineering I have, or the nearly two years of actual engineering experience I have.

Then there’s home management. I have been making a lot of changes to my flat, trying to settle in, while terrified of settling in, because it’s a rental and I don’t know when or if I’ll have to move, I just feel like I’m going to have to move and I don’t want to enjoy this flat too much, or buy too much furniture, because moving is painful enough without owning so many things. But I’m trying to settle into the now, enjoy my environment now without worrying about later. (After all, no matter what I’ll be packing crap tonnes of stuff into boxes, and I’ve probably long past the point where I could avoid paying for a moving service.) I’m trying to be good about chores and keeping things clean too. At first I struggled with that – I was so tired from work and commuting. Now I’m driving and my commute is easier and I get home sooner it’s a bit easier. I am incredibly lucky with the place I am living in and I try to tell myself that often, remind myself that even I don’t own my place and I can’t paint the walls or put up shelves, at least I have a warm roof over my head, lots of space all to myself, and none of the problems with scrupulous landlords, dodgy roommates, weird moulds or maintenance issues that some people suffer. I am safe and comfortable. It’s enough. More than enough. I am very lucky.

I am not so good about managing my diet or exercise. I still eat like a student and struggle to exercise – I got to week four of couch to 5k then gave up, I dip in and out of Yoga, but I can’t make anything work. I’m very lazy outside of work.

I’m not sure what’s going on with this blog. I don’t want to give up blogging, but there’s such a large part of my life (work!) that I have to keep private and its awkward working around that elephant in the room (work!).

Everything is messy and awkward right now. While my heart longs for stability and settling down, my life has had other ideas. There’s been so much going on these past few years. But I’m still here, 25 years old, trying to deal with it all and sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. Just like everyone else, I imagine.

“All I feel is emptiness here, searching for what you want me to say. I’m terrified…”

Something I’ve found difficult to adjust to in the 9-5 life is definitely where the lines exist in interactions with coworkers. They aren’t friends, but you see them daily, and it’s confusing as hell trying to thus figure out how to interact with them.

When I first started work I admit, I shared too much. I’m always like that when I’m trying to integrate in a group – I’ll say anything, if I think it will make someone like me or find me interesting. It’s a terrible habit picked up from being an immigrant child trying to fit into a school where the only other foreigner was my own sister. I wanted to impress, I wanted to be interesting, I wanted to be liked. I would do anything, even lie, to try and fit in. So, I always do this. But I realised I was doing that and I tried to back track, to withdraw and become more careful. But I was embarrassed and I felt awkward. I am aware of the lines I have crossed, the mistakes I initially made as I tried to settle into this working thing.

I worry about what my co-workers think of me, what they might say about me over their cups of tea on their coffee breaks or worse, to my line manager.

I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, but people do tend to chatter amongst themselves in offices don’t they? People talk, whatever their intentions for it. It’s the worst thing about office life for an introvert – a big open plan space, lots of people, and the unsettling feeling of constantly being watched that comes with that.

It is awkward and confusing. You spend more time with these people than your own family, you have to be nice to them, you need to make a good impression and appear a good team worker, but at the same time you need to be on your guard because you’re the graduate/junior, and you don’t know what they will report to your line manager about you. You need them to trust you to do your work more than you need them to like you, but how much does liking you come into play with trusting you to deliver?

I have taken to keeping my head down and working as quietly as I can, and only asking work questions and brushing off personal enquiries as best I can, or giving light, featureless answers. I do try to show interest in my co-workers, but carefully, generically – sticking to the safest topics I can think of. I think this is the right way forward. I don’t want to become friends and I don’t want to develop those kind of emotions in my work – I want a separation between work and my personal life. I am scared about getting too attached to this one job and getting attached to the people around me would, I imagine, feed such an attachment.

Of course, sometimes I go to site, and this often involves long drives. Stuck in a car for hours with a single coworker. It’s terrifying and I find myself rambling sometimes, and I don’t like that. It’s hard to know how to navigate travelling with coworkers.

Recently, I attended a team dinner and that was another level of confusing. I have another team dinner invite sitting in my inbox and I’m not sure if I should accept. It feels like I need to draw lines. If I start engaging like this, I am scared that line between work and personal will get blurred, but only for me who doesn’t have the experience or the worldliness to know how to navigate work social events without getting attached or saying the wrong things, or blurting out something awkwardly personal….

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

Today I decided I was going to take a day trip to the Yorkshire Coast again. The difference this time was- I was going to drive it. I set off very early in the morning, grabbed a Starbucks, and then headed across to the coast. I had just a single high-speed road to take before a set of narrow, twisty country roads so it wasn’t beyond my abilities – that, and the roads were very quiet early on a Sunday morning. It was just very long.

Gannets
My trip started with a visit to the RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Context: The RSPB is the Royal Society of Birds. The Bempton Cliffs are a long stretch of sheer cliffs part of the Yorkshire coast which serve as a key nesting site for thousands of sea birds, many of them rare (especially in these parts) such as Puffins and Gannets. I have been wanting to go there for the longest time, because I want to see puffins (because who wouldn’t want to see Puffins.) Although the drive did get stressful on the approach to the cliffs, because of aforementioned twisty country roads, I got there OK and even managed to park OK. It was just past 10 when I had arrived, so the drive was just over an hour and a half. Bearable, especially with my excitement about the puffins to motivate me!

At the entrance to the nature reserve a very nice man from the RSPB talked me through my visit and what I could expect to see and he provided a helpful handout – for free no less – with detailed illustrations of the birds to help identify them.
I entered the reserve and began my walk along the cliffs, stopping at all the viewpoints to look for puffins. There were thousands of birds coating every available surface of the cliffs, sitting on the water and flying around the cliffs. (They were incredibly noisy too.) There were a lot of people there too, and I felt quite inadequate compared to the sheer number of them carrying all manners of binoculars, tripods, telescopes and DLSRs with what looked like a meter of lenses attached to them. A lot of people there were clearly Very Serious about birdwatching, and were planning to spend a long time at it. (I even spotted a man asleep, and snoring, on a bench and I imagined him spending his morning at a viewpoint, taking a noon nap before carrying on.) I felt a little sad when they could spot puffins and no matter how much I scanned with my camera on full zoom I just couldn’t. Looking for tiny little puffins among all those thousands of birds was a very strange, frustrating game of ‘Where’s Wally?’, with the picture far away and constantly shifting.

PUFFINS!!!
But, I did manage to see some puffins. Maybe not as many as I wanted/expected? But I was so close to the ones I did see which was absolutely amazing. I definitely agree with the RSPB information that they are slightly comical in looks, but I also found them incredibly cute. I could also see Gannets, Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls, Guillemots and Razorbills. (Basically all the birds listed on the sheet bar two!) I saw the very young, very fluffy babies of the gannets and kittiwakes, nestled in under a parent (Interestingly, and luckily, when I look over my photos I can zoom in and spot things I never picked up with my own eyes – an extra puffin, more babies. It’s pretty cool and I can see why most people were carrying about such heavy equipment – their photos must be incredible.) It was absolutely amazing and it would have been worth the drive just for that, but my day would get better.

My sister is in holiday in Scarborough with some girlfriends at the moment. So I asked her if I could crash their holiday for the day so I could see her- and she said yes :) I drove into Scarborough from the Bempton Cliffs, getting a little lost trying to find the car park I had chosen thanks to my GPS going wonky, but again just about managing it. I met my sister and her friends at a small, out of the way restaurant where we had food like hot sandwiches, burgers, chips, salad and nachos for lunch. It was all freshly made, very simple but flavorful and reasonably priced. 10/10. After a filling lunch we made our way to the beach, where we set ourselves up for the rest of the afternoon. I waded into the water with my sister for a bit, but then we both just lay down and chilled in the sun. Although the day had started out a bit grey, and I had started out wrapped up at the cliffs, it turned into a gloriously bright and sunny day and I was hot even after shedding all my extra layers.

It was really relaxing, lazing about in the sun with my sister and her friends, talking about nothing in particular and soaking in the warmth.

We then went into one of the arcades and wasted only a small amount of money playing the 2 pence a go games, then we did some quick souvenir shopping and headed back to the car. The walk back to the car was unfortunately uphill most of the way and I don’t think anyone was impressed with my choice of parking. :/

Although this was my first time taking passengers, thankfully the nerves about that didn’t get me too much and I drove everyone back safely to their accommodation. I pretty much dropped them off then set off back home. The drive back was way more tiring and I had to stop for some caffeine – even though it was late and I knew it would affect my sleep, I was getting worried for myself and my concentration. After getting a shot of caffeine in me I was OK for the rest of the drive. Thankfully the roads remained quiet and I got home in good time. I am interested to see how I will sleep tonight, if I will manage to wake up tomorrow morning, and how driving will be tomorrow… I’ve had a great day though and I’m feeling pretty proud for all the “driving firsts” I ticked off today, successfully.